Fabrice Leggeri, director of Frontex
Fabrice Leggeri, director of Frontex

“Triton cannot be a search-and-rescue operation. I mean, in our operational plan, we cannot have provisions for proactive search-and-rescue action. This is not in Frontex’s mandate, and this is in my understanding not in the mandate of the European Union,” Leggeri told the Guardian.

If the EU plan leaked by the Guardian is confirmed at today’s meeting, it is a very sad day for Europe. The plan shows an astounding lack of political leadership and vision. It is not only impractical but also inhumane. It will undermine EU’s international standing and do little to address boat migration. Out of about 21,000 arrivals this year via the central Med route, roughly half of them are from Syria and Eritrea: where is the EU planning to ‘rapidly’ send them back to (about 10,000 people)? Where is the magical number of 5,000 resettlement places come from? Germany alone in the last four years took 30,000 Syrians (the UK only 143, just for the record).

If they are serious about saving lives at sea (and I honestly have serious doubt about this) they have to do three things: a) immediately restart Mare Nostrum under a EU-wide mandate or fund the Italian Navy to do what they did so well last year; b) substantially increase the number of resettled refugees from Syria (up to 150-200,000 a year) – this will reduce the need for people to use smugglers and risk their lives (ie empty the demand); c) create new pathways for low-skilled economic migration into Europe. The next step is of course to stabilize Libya and reach a long-term settlement in the Middle East. If you ask me why the EU plan includes ensuring that every and each migrant is fingerprinted in its 10-point action plan for ‘saving lives’, well, because the 10-point plan has very little to do with saving lives and much more with political posturing and militarizing the Mediterranean.

A footnote: International leaders have put together some kind of charming offensive.

The Italian PM Matteo Renzi spoke to the New York Times but, as pointed out by Alexander Betts (RSC, Oxford), he is ‘still badly missing the point – this is not about “trafficking”; it’s an asylum crisis!’. His spin doctor has also recommended him to repeat incessantly two phrases: a) ‘we need a political response, not an emotional one’ – that is to say no Mare Nostrum this time around; b) ‘migrants are everyone’s problem’, that is to say we are not going to pay for this alone.

Meanwhile, the UK PM David Cameron and his Deputy Nick Clegg spoke to The Guardian and the BBC saying that they regret to have criticised Mare Nostrum, accusing the operation to cause more people to die at sea, however, this move seems to have more to do with the forthcoming UK general election than the EU action plan, where it is clear that the UK and the others have no intention to launch a EU search and rescue operation. Better some ‘surgical’ strikes in Libyan ports.

'A rescue operation may not always be the best solution' - anonymus
‘A rescue operation may not always be the best solution’ – anonymous

[will write a longer and more reflexive piece later today]