‘Somalia piracy mission shows EU can combat migrant trafficking’ - Metsola

Nationalist MEP admits skepticism over whether the EU's Prime Ministers will agree to translate a short-term Mediterranean migration action plan into political action. 

The success of an EU naval mission to eradicate piracy off the coast of Somalia shows that a similar mission could combat human trafficking in the Mediterranean, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola said.

“I’ve been comparing the two situations in the European Parliament for the past few months,” Metsola said, when interviewed on BBC Newsnight on Monday. “The Atalanta Operation has practically eradicated piracy off the coast of Somalia, so why can’t the EU use the same force to combat human trafficking in the Mediterranean?”

Around 1,000 migrants are believed to have drowned in two separate shipwrecks off the coast of Libya in the past two weeks. On Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed to a 10-point action plan for immediate action in the Mediterranean to prevent more people from drowning and to combat human trafficking. The plan suggests enhancing search-and-rescue operations, increasing funds to Frontex, and launching a campaign to destroy traffickers’ boats. EU leaders will convene an extraordinary summit on Thursday to discuss a joint EU response to the recent tragedies.

“I hope that the EU’s Prime Ministers get around the table on Thursday and translate those words in the action plan into political action,” Metsola said. “However, after all these years of inaction, I’m a little bit skeptical.

“The sense of urgency necessitates short-term solutions, or else hundreds more migrants will continue drowning.”

She warned that desperate enough migrants will seek to enter the EU anyway, and that the EU should therefore identify legal routes for them to do so, rather than allowing them to board rickety boats and “face almost certain death”.

She repeated her call on the EU to implement a system of burden sharing.

“A distribution mechanism is legally possible, as it has been within an EU directive since 2001,” Metsola said. “However, whenever an EU member state has tried to activate that directive, it has been met with huge reticence by the EU and member states.

“The legal channels exist but we need the political will to implement them.”

In a separate brief interview on Al Jazeera, Metsola repeated her call for an EU naval presence in the Mediterranean.

“Italy had managed to save lives by itself, through its Mare Nostrum mission last summer,” she said. “Why cannot the EU manage to save the lives that were saved by one of its members alone?

“We’re not pointing fingers but this bickering has to stop and the 28 member states need to realize that the migration responsibility must be shouldered by everyone.”