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Preventing deaths in the Mediterranean

4 December 2013

Vessel with boat migrants being intercepted by coast guard, November 2009. Photo: UNHCR/A. Rodríguez

The boat tragedy in Lampedusa, one of the many Europe has witnessed in recent years, prompted an unprecedented call for action by EU leaders and citizens. This week, the European Commission proposed ways to increase solidarity and mutual support in order to prevent migrants' deaths in the Mediterranean.

Actions proposed are the result of the work carried out by the Commission chaired Task-Force for the Mediterranean, with the aim to bolster EU's policies and tools in the short to medium term.

"Two months ago the tragedy in Lampedusa triggered a very wide and emotional reaction across Europe - a chorus of voices calling for actions to avoid such disasters in the future. I trust this impetus has not vanished. Today we are putting on the table measures and proposals for a truly European response that can make a difference. I call on Member States to make full use of this unique opportunity to show that the EU is built on solidarity and concrete support. Now is the time to act", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

The Commission will report to the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers on 5-6 December, for further discussion and endorsement at the December European Council. The Task-Force identified concrete actions in five main areas:

Border surveillance to help saving lives. Europe must be able to provide assistance to those in need by stepping up its border control operations and enhance its capacity to detect boats in the Mediterranean.

A new strategy to achieve this objective has been presented by Frontex to the Task Force. It aims at coordinating patrolling in the area under a common and coordinated platform - from Cyprus to Spain, focusing on the key migratory routes, thereby saving life of migrants in distress at sea. According to Frontex estimations, the implementation of this new strategy would require additional financial resources amounting to around 14 million euro per year.

Assistance and solidarity. While Member States have the responsibility to have efficient asylum, migration and integration systems in place, those dealing with high migratory pressure need particular support. Regarding financial support, overall the Commission is setting aside funding (including emergency funding) of up to €50m. In support of Italy €30m have been set aside, including for border surveillance operations under the Frontex mandate. For other Member States €20m have been allocated in order to improve, between others, reception capacity, processing capacity, screening and registration capacity.

Fight against trafficking, smuggling and organised crime. Practical cooperation and exchange of information must be reinforced, including with third countries.

Regional protection, resettlement and legal ways to access Europe. Resettlement is an area where Member States could do more to ensure that those in need of protection arrive safely to the EU. In 2012, 4.930 persons were resettled to the Union by twelve Member States (Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and United Kingdom). The US in the same year resettled over 50.000 persons. If all Member States would get involved into resettlement exercises and make available a proportionate number of places, the EU would be able to resettle thousands people more from refugee camps. In order to stimulate resettling, future EU funding for 2014/2020 will be available to support additional efforts and commitments in this field. The European Commission intends to make available a lump sum up to 6.000 euro per resettled refugee.

The Commission is ready to explore possibilities for protected entries in the EU, which could allow non-EU nationals to access the asylum procedure from outside the EU, without embarking on difficult journeys to reach Europe. This will be further refined in the coming months, notably in the context of the discussion on the future of Home Affairs policies.

Actions in cooperation with third countries. The European Commission has just concluded the negotiations for the Mobility Partnership agreements with Tunisia and Azerbaijan. Diplomatic action will be targeted at achieving further results in our mobility dialogues with third countries. For instance, new Dialogues on migration, mobility and security should be launched with additional Southern Mediterranean countries, notably with Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Lebanon.

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Read more about the proposals here. The communication in full is also available, as well as video and photos from Wednesday's press conference.