European Parliament debates crisis in the Mediterranean

Alyn Smith, member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, continues to stress the need for dedicated search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean, following a debate and a vote in the European Parliament on a resolution concerning the ongoing migration crisis.

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In a resolution passed today, members of the European Parliament urged the EU leaders and its member states to establish a clear mandate for “Triton”, a border security operation conducted by Frontex, the European Union's border security agency, and expand its area of operation at EU level. It also calls for the strongest possible criminal sanctions against human trafficking and smuggling.

Alyn said:

“A robust and permanent humanitarian European rescue operation, which would operate on the high seas and to which all member states would contribute financially, with equipment and assets is long overdue. However, the Parliament today sent a strong signal to the EU leaders and national governments demanding change in approach and funding to save migrants from drowning.

“As one of the elected members for Scotland I’ve been staggered by number of calls and emails from Scottish people demanding action. Our open letter calling for immediate humanitarian assistance in the Mediterranean met with huge support from civic society and the general public.

“People in Scotland, Europe and members of the European Parliament expressed a clear demand for immediate action to prevent further loss of life. Europe's states cannot ignore the tragedy unfolding on our doorstep.

“The EU should do everything possible to prevent further loss of life at sea. It is especially important that we immediately expand the area of our operations. Operation “Triton” is coordinated by the EU border agency Frontex and currently extends only 30 nautical miles from the Italian coastline. There should be no cut-off point; our rescue missions should be reaching people when their vessels get into difficulty. 

“Of course, these measures are designed as a short-term relief rather than long term solutions. As stated in the resolution approved today, the root causes of migration must be tackled and actions should involve closer coordination of EU and member states’ policies and more cooperation with partner countries in the Middle East and Africa."

The resolution was approved today by 449 votes to 130, with 93 abstentions.