German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on members of the European Union (EU) to resume rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean using naval vessels.
The German leader commented on the issue stating that it would be good to resume a mission like Operation Sophia, which was largely suspended in March of this year after huge resistance from the populist Italian government, Die Welt reports.
“Surely it would be good if we would again today have a mission Sophia so that government ships would save lives,” Merkel said.
In March, the EU announced the suspension of naval operations in the Mediterranean stating, “Member States have decided to extend the mandate of Operation Sophia for six months with a temporary suspension of its naval assets while member states continue working on a solution related to disembarkation.”
Germany Demands Italy Open Ports as NGO Picks up More Migrants https://t.co/sJ0cl8FOZF
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 1, 2019
Earlier this year, Chancellor Merkel backed out of Operation Sophia due to populist Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s policy of keeping ports closed to illegal migrants.
Operation Sophia, which began in 2015 and saw tens of thousands of migrants rescued and largely transported to Italy, has been criticised by many, including the government of Libya, where many migrants attempt to access Europe from.
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamad Taher Siala described his own opinion of Sophia saying, “I think this Sophia… it’s negative. It’s not positive. Simply because in part they encourage the migration.”
While Salvini’s tough anti-mass migration policies have led to a large fall in the number of drowning deaths in the region, the number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean has begun to rise, along with the activity of migrant rescue NGOs.
Several NGOs, such as the German-based Sea-Watch, have challenged Salvini’s closed port policy with Sea Watch captain Carola Rackete forcing her vessel into a port and was arrested after docking. She, along with captain Pia Klemp, faces charges of aiding illegal migration.