EU states should come up with a plan to save migrants who are trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in increasing numbers, according to a joint statement made by liberal non-governmental organizations including Sea-Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and SOS Méditerranée on Wednesday.
In recent weeks, the ships of humanitarian organizations have rescued hundreds of migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa. Italy has registered more than 42,000 new arrivals on this route so far this year — that is significantly more than all of last year when there were approximately 30,000.
The country is struggling to provide migrants with entry registration and accommodation. For example, the refugee camp on the island of Lampedusa, with a capacity of about 350 people, is excessively overcrowded.
Humanitarian organizations complained that the EU member states are not carrying out coordinated operations to save people in the Mediterranean, and therefore the organizations themselves must intervene instead.
“EU member states and associated states should deploy an adequate, state-led and proactive rescue fleet in the central Mediterranean, a rapid and proportionate response to all distress calls and a predictable disembarking mechanism,” the organizations jointly stated.
In 2020, the EU ended the controversial anti-trafficking operation in the Mediterranean and replaced it with the Irini mission, which aimed to maintain the U.N. arms embargo on Libya. Since then, the rescue of migrants has been left to the discretion of individual states. NGOs complain that countries ignore distress calls or even work with Libyan authorities to send them back to Libya.
The MSF ship Geo Barents with 659 people on board, has been asking ports in Italy and Malta for permission to disembark rescued migrants for several days. The Ocean ship, operated by SOS Méditerranée, disembarked 387 people in Salerno, Italy, on Sunday after several days of waiting, while the Sea-Watch 3 disembarked 438 people in Taranto on Saturday.
A bloc of right-wing and far-right parties in Italy, which, according to the latest opinion polls, is on course to win the elections scheduled for Sept. 25, is calling for a “sea blockade” to prevent the disembarkation of migrants. The leader of the right-wing populist League party, Matteo Salvini, plans to visit Lampedusa on Thursday.