Saturday, April 25, 2015

Europe’s Migration Crisis Cannot Be Solved at Sea, Analysts Say

APRIL 24, 2015

CATANIA, Sicily — To human rights advocates, one of Europe’s biggest mistakes in the Mediterranean migration crisis came last November with the shutdown of the Italian patrol and rescue program known as Mare Nostrum. Led by the Italian Navy, the program saved thousands of migrants at sea.

But ending it, largely for budget reasons, had effects beyond scaling back humanitarian efforts. Even as the Italians were saving lives, they were using the program to identify and prosecute the smuggling networks behind the surge in human trafficking across the Mediterranean. The program helped Italian prosecutors convict more than 100 people for human smuggling and indict three smuggling bosses in Egypt.

Italian ships patrolled international waters — making it possible to capture some smugglers in the act — while police investigators were stationed onboard.

“Police were able to intervene directly,” said Giovanni Salvi, the chief prosecutor in Catania. “They could immediately identify the telephones that were being used, the numbers and the traffickers. We could get wiretaps. That allowed us to record conversations between the ‘mother ship’ and the bosses in Egypt.”

The program that replaced Mare Nostrum, known as Triton and run by the European Union, is far less ambitious, restricted to the waters immediately off the European coast, and does not include a robust law enforcement component. The decision by European leaders not to pick up the monthly bill of 9 million euros (about $9.8 million) to keep Mare Nostrum operating has drawn scathing criticism in the aftermath of last weekend’s deadly shipwreck, which left more than 750 migrants dead.

(More here.)


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