The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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Illegal migration: Frontex chief says he 'didn't know Italy is scrapping Mare Nostrum'

Thursday, 23 October 2014, 06:26 Last update: about 11 years ago

European Union Frontex border control agency director Gil Arias Fernandez said on Friday he had no idea Italy was shutting down its Mare Nostrum migrant search-and-rescue operation at the end of the month.

Fernandez told ANSA he only learned of Italy's plans to shut down Mare Nostrum on Thursday.

Mare Nostrum and Frontex's new Triton operation are not the same, Fernandez said.

"EU agencies cannot replace member States' responsibility to control their own borders," he said. 

Italy's proposal to end its Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea would put the lives of thousands of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe at risk, Amnesty International said yesterday.

Italy's Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano has proposed that Mare Nostrum, which was launched a year ago and has saved tens of thousands of lives at sea, should end when Frontex's new border operation Triton starts on 1 November. 

"Frontex's Triton operation does not begin to meet the needs of thousands of migrants and refugees, including those forced to flee war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. The suggestion that it could replace Mare Nostrum could have catastrophic and deadly consequences in the Mediterranean," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Director.

"Triton is a border operation and does not have a search and rescue mandate. It will only operate close to Italian waters and not beyond, where it is most needed. Even Frontex have said that Triton does not have the resources to carry out the work of Mare Nostrum.

"Italy must continue the Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation until there is a better-equipped alternative supported by other European countries - and Triton is certainly not it.

"If Italy follows through on this proposal, the disturbing prospect of 'Frontex plus' turning into 'Mare Nostrum minus' is in danger of becoming a reality."

The decision to end Mare Nostrum will be on the agenda of one the Italian government's next cabinet meetings. 



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