The withdrawal of rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea by EU states is an “abdication of their duty of care”

Irish Neutrality

In advance of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) in Rome, Senator Mark Daly will be calling on European states to reinstate their efforts at saving lives in the Mediterranean.

In advance of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) in Rome, Senator Mark Daly will be calling on European states to reinstate their efforts at saving lives in the Mediterranean. The numbers of vulnerable migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean has drastically increased in the last few years. This is largely due to increased political instability in North African countries such as Libya, continued poverty in African states such as Eritrea and the ongoing conflict in Syria. This year there has been 153,000 new arrivals fleeing poverty, persecution or simply seeking a better life in Europe; this figure is twice that of last year and represents a proliferation of an already developed humanitarian crisis.
The perilous journey to Europe is typically undertaken in vessels wholly unseaworthy and dangerously overcrowded. This has resulted in several catastrophes leading to the tragic drowning of thousands already this year. As the number of would be migrants increases dramatically so too does the probability of vessels encountering difficulty at sea resulting in the loss of life.
One particularly harrowing case occurred off the Italian island of Lampedusa during October last year. Within days two separate boats sank leading to the death of 360 migrants from Eritrea and Somalia. Navy Capt. Paolo Trucco described how deep sea divers ‘unpacked a wall of The Daily Telegraph, October 8th 2013.. This and many other similar incidents have led commentators to charge that the Mediterranean is at risk of becoming a cemetery for desperate migrants.
Since the beginning of the year, tragically, 3,000 people have lost their lives on the perilous journey to Europe. This represents a clear abdication of a duty of care which European states have for migrants attempting to enter their borders. The duty of care which is not being adequately offered to the migrants is unacceptable; particularly when one appreciates that many of the countries from which they are fleeing were in fact colonized by European nations in the 19th century. The past colonial experience in present day Libya, Somalia, and Eritrea has contributed to the economic, political and social degradation within those countries.
Other European nations too must shoulder the responsibility for the conditions which precipitate the need for migration. Another county with a strong colonial past, has also refused to offer meaningful support to the migrants. The British Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St John has described the search and rescue operations for distressed migrants as ‘unintended pull factors’ which rather than fulfill a humane roll simply ‘undermines the deterrent for the dangerous journey’ The Daily Telegraph, October 8th 2013. This ‘dangerous Journey’ is interpreted as a positive natural boundary against migration and this illustrates a mindset which has little sympathy for the suffering of others – presumably because of their ethnic background, or social status.
The situation has further worsened since Friday the 31st of October 2014, when the Italian government announced the end of its search and rescue mission in the area titled ‘Mare Nostrum’. Since its inception Mare Nostrum has saved 100,000 shipwrecked refugees – an incredible number considering it was only operational for twelve months. The operation which covered 27,000km2 was ran at the cost of E 9 million a month. The mission included five naval vessels, helicopters, five aircraft, and two submarines and was staffed by 900 personnel The Guardian, October 31st 2014.. Replacing Mare Nostrum will be a fundamentally different venture organized by the European Union’s border agency Frontex. Frontex’s new initiative headed ‘Triton’ will focus on border surveillance and control rather than its pro-active search and rescue orientated predecessor Mare Nostrum. Triton will only patrol within 30km of the coast and has a budget of E 2.9 million – less than a third that of Mare Nostrum. Frontex operations director Klaus Rosler has said ‘the first priority would be ensuring effective border control and monitoring of criminal networks in Northern Africa’. Roberta Pinotti, the Italian minister for defense has voiced similar sentiments, she has accepted that ‘Italian assets in the Mediterranean has decreased from E 9 million to E 3.5 million, from five ‘big ships’ to one ship… and three smaller patrol boats’ The Guardian, October 31st 2014..
This scaling back of rescue capability is an affront to humanitarian well-being in the region. By declining to intervene the relevant powers are consenting to this widespread loss of life. Senator Daly concluded ‘Italy must re-establish a working search and rescue operation. Ex-colonial states have a duty of care to their former colonies, which in this case is compelled by a basic principal of decency – the protection of human life, I call on all those with the capacity to act now and end this crisis by consent’.

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