The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has announced an ‘Action Plan’ to curtail the ever-widening torrent of illegal immigrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Europe, prompting criticism from some far-left NGOs which claim the plan will criminalize their operations.
The Commission’s announcement of the plan, which consists of 20 measures organized under three primary pillars, comes in the wake of a diplomatic spat between France and Italy over states’ responsibility to take in unvetted foreign nationals who arrive in European waters after having traveled from North Africa, the EU-funded news site InfoMigrants reports.
The four primary objectives of the Action Plan are as follows: stemming the flow of illegal migration, strengthening cooperation with partner countries in North Africa, coordinating search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean to prevent loss of life, and making sure the costs associated with taking in asylum seekers are distributed evenly among European Union member states.
The plan is set to be discussed at length this Friday, November 25th, by member states’ interior ministers.
Days ago, European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex, issued a press release that revealed a sharp uptick in the number of illegal border crossings along the Central Mediterranean route—one of the most dangerous migratory routes—so far this year, with 90,000 unvetted foreign nationals arriving, representing a 50% increase compared to the same period last year, as The European Conservative reported. Migratory activity along the Western Balkan route is the highest it has been since the European Migrant Crisis of 2015-2016.
According to November’s figures from the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, more than 92,000 irregular migrants have arrived in Italy this year. Migrant transport NGO vessels have been responsible for dropping off 10,000 of the illegal migrants entering Italy, InfoMigrants reported.
During a meeting in Brussels on Monday, November 22nd, where the plan was unveiled, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said: “We cannot manage migration on a case by case, boat by boat basis.”
“With increased arrivals along the Central Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes, we need to step up common efforts to provide immediate results,” Schinas added.
At the same meeting, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said, “A common European solution is on the table. Adopting it remains our key priority.” She noted most of the migrants attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean are from Egypt, Tunisia, and Bangladesh, rather than sub-Saharan Africa.
Perhaps not so unsurprisingly, the far-left pro-mass migration NGO Sea-Watch took to Twitter to slam the Commission’s Action Plan, saying: “We agree it’s time to act. But we don’t need new guidelines for rescue ships—we need EU states that adhere to existing international maritime law and human rights.”
Instead of creating a new legal framework for NGOs, Sea-Watch argued that the EU should “fulfil their obligation to rescue at sea, initiate a state EU SAR program, stop criminalizing migrants and NGOs, and create safe and legal routes to Europe.”