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Brussels migrant crisis agreements 'fall short' say ECSA and ICS

Brussels migrant crisis agreements 'fall short' say ECSA and ICS
Agreement by EU member states to triple the resources earmarked for the Mediterranean’s Operation Triton is “laudable” but falls short, European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) say.

The measure was agreed yesterday at a crisis meeting of the EU following at least 1000 migrant deaths in the last month, and will increase its capacity for Search and Rescue (SAR).

However, ECSA and ICS expressed concern that operation Triton remains within the mandate of border-control-focussed FRONTEX, which “raises serious questions” over whether immigration control would take priority over safety.

“Laudable as these efforts are, they still fall short of the scale and mandate of last year's Italian operation Mare Nostrum, which saved hundreds of thousands of people in 2014,” said ECSA secretary general Patrick Verhoeven. “What is needed immediately is a similar, EU-led, large-scale SAR mission, able to operate far from the EU territorial waters, which is where most of the accidents involving migrants take place.”

Peter Hinchliffe, ICS secretary general, said: “We understand that the resources  of Triton can be deployed in international waters when called upon by national Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres, but it remains highly doubtful whether they can rapidly reach areas near the Libyan coast, where most incidents tend to occur. 

“It seems that merchant ships, which are not best equipped to rescue hundreds of people at a time, will continue to be called upon frequently to respond to requests for assistance.  A clear mandate for humanitarian rescue operations by EU States still appears to be outstanding.”

Similar fears were expressed by German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) earlier this week, maintaining their vessels “are not equipped for rescue and medical treatment” of refugees, and seafarers were “reaching their physical and mental limits”.