Italy is seeking to end the preemptive measures it takes by patrolling the Mediterranean searching for overcrowded vessels destined for the island of Lampedusa.
The combined efforts of the Italian navy and coast guard have saved over 150,000 men, women and children attempting the perilous crossing from the coasts of North Africa this year so far, according to news outlet ‘The Local’.
During Breitbart London’s investigations in Calais we spoke to asylum seekers who had been rescued from their dangerously overcrowded ships by the Italian Navy – operations which were stepped up after the devastating loss of life in 2013 when a fishing vessel caught fire at sea.
The EU’s agency ‘Frontex’ is stepping up operations on the Southern EU border following demands from Italy and other countries who face the biggest burden of being an entry point to the whole European Union, such as Greece and Malta.
With the introduction of Frontex’s Triton mission, it is not clear whether Italy’s Mare Nostrum rescue mission will be scaled back or closed down entirely.
“Mare Nostrum is being wound up” said Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister. “There will be a formal decision during one of the next cabinet meetings.”The Italy navy says a total of 32 boats have taken part in the Mare Nostrum mission, supported by two submarines as well as planes and helicopters.
On average, a total of 900 men and women are manning the decks daily and pick up an average of 400 people every 24 hours; tripling the number of arrivals in 2013.
Aid organisations have criticised Italy’s decision to wind up Mare Nostrum, saying it could put further lives at risk. But this view is not shared by everyone.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns, a Foreign Office minister, said the rescue efforts only encourage more migrants to attempt “the dangerous sea crossing” according to reports in the Telegraph.
In a further blow to EU solidarity it has been revealed that the UK will not be providing assistance to the Triton mission.
Lady Anelay, who set out Britain’s position in a recent House of Lords written answer, said search and rescue operations acted as “an unintended ‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths”.
“We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
“The government believes the most effective way to prevent refugees and migrants attempting this dangerous crossing is to focus our attention on countries of origin and transit, as well as taking steps to fight the people smugglers who wilfully put lives at risk by packing migrants into unseaworthy boats.”
This position has been backed up by Italian politicians who say that the burden the EU places on the original country of arrival for asylum seekers is unfair.
Ignazio Corrao MEP from the M5S told Breitbart London:
“The management of migration flows keeps on being a problem that will not be solved neither by Italian measures nor European ones. It is important to get to the root of the problem, meaning the countries of origin and the ‘transit’ countries, to avoid that migrants risk their lives escaping internal conflicts or persecution.”
But the British Refugee Council chief executive, Maurice Wren had a different view:
“People fleeing atrocities will not stop coming if we stop throwing them life-rings; boarding a rickety boat in Libya will remain a seemingly rational decision if you’re running for your life and your country is in flames.”