EU to Triple Funding for Mediterranean Crisis

Responding to the ongoing pressure from the maritime industry, the European Union has committed to triple the financial resources to reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon in 2015 and 2016.

Tripling annual funding to 120 million euros ($130 million) will provide for boosting of the search and rescue possibilities in the Mediterranean within the mandate of FRONTEX, rendering the critical need to Italy that has been left to its own devices in dealing with the crisis.

The decision to restore funding and expand resources for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean was reached at an extraordinary meeting of the European Council held on Thursday in Brussels.

Nearly 2,000 people have died so far this year out of nearly 40,000 people making the crossing in unseawrothy vessels. In addition,  the summer season is starting that could push total arrivals on Italy’s shores for 2015 to 200,000, Italy warned.

“We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria,” a statement from the European Council reads.

Within the efforts aimed at fighting traffickers, the Council said  it plans to bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries.

In addition, this will include systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers which is expected to take place within a possible CSDP operation, along with removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees.

“Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration.

Let me be clear. Europe did not cause this tragedy. But that does not mean we can be indifferent. We are facing a difficult summer and we need to be ready to act. Therefore, leaders have agreed four priority areas for action,“said President of the Council Donald Tusk after the meeting.