EU weighs plans to impose rules on NGO migrant rescue ships

Nov 24, 2022, 7:14 PM | Updated: Nov 25, 2022, 11:02 am
Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, left, listens during a debate on asylum and migra...

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, left, listens during a debate on asylum and migration including search and rescue, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

(AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union interior ministers on Friday weighed proposals to ease tensions between France and Italy over migrants arriving on their shores without authorization, including a possible crackdown on charity-run ships doing search and rescue work in the Mediterranean Sea.

In recent weeks, several hundred people hoping to enter Europe have been stranded at sea aboard aid ships while countries bicker over whether and where they should be allowed to disembark.

It comes during a year in which more than 90,000 migrants have so far arrived in Europe though the Mediterranean, chiefly from Libya and Tunisia — an increase of almost 50% over the same period in 2021. Almost 2,000 people have died or are missing at sea.

A diplomatic row erupted earlier this month when Italy maneuvered France into accepting a humanitarian rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, with 234 migrants aboard. The right-wing government in Rome had refused to grant it access to a port for weeks.

France retaliated by suspending its participation in an EU solidarity pact to accept around 3,000 people, in a process known as “relocation,” who had arrived this year in Italy, and sent officers to reinforce its southern border crossings and prevent migrants from entering.

“If Italy doesn’t take the boats, doesn’t accept the law of the sea, and the nearest safe port, there’s no reason that countries that do relocation, France and Germany, should be the same countries that accept the boats or the migrants directly from Africa or Asia,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, has tabled an action plan. Part of that plan involves the idea of imposing tighter rules on ships doing search and rescue work. Neither the EU nor any of its member countries actively search for migrants at sea unless they receive an emergency call.

The plan calls for the EU to throw its weight behind “discussions in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the need for a specific framework and guidelines for vessels having a particular focus on search and rescue activities, particularly in view of developments in the European context.”

After the meeting, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said: “We need dialogue, and we need rules, and we need order.”

“Operations in the Mediterranean and elsewhere cannot operate under a Wild, Wild West situation, where everybody does anything and it’s OK,” Schinas told reporters in Brussels.

He said the commission would help the 27 member countries to come up with rules, principles and strategies to improve cooperation between those who rescue people at sea and the countries who must receive them.

The IMO, for its part, has expressed concern about the disembarkation row. It has recalled that, under international law, a search and rescue operation is not concluded until the survivors have been taken ashore to a place of safety.

To the dismay of charity groups, Italy has long impounded NGO ships that transport rescued migrants or tie their crew up in court cases to dissuade them. Greece has also tried to discourage humanitarian organizations from helping people trying to enter Europe without authorization.

Darmanin told reporters that “the NGOs that are in the Mediterranean are there to save people and obviously should not be, under any circumstances, in any kind of contact with any smuggling organization.”

Other EU countries oppose new rules that would make it impossible for NGO ships to save lives.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that with so many lives at stake in the Mediterranean, his agency “appreciates the vital importance of rescue at sea by all actors, including NGO rescue vessels.”

The International Rescue Committee, a migrant aid group, called on the EU to mount its own “search and rescue operations, and work in coordination with NGOs to ensure that everyone rescued at sea is disembarked quickly and safely.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found ...
Rebecca Boone, Associated Press

Victims’ families urge love, kindness as Idaho campus mourns

As hundreds of students mourned together inside the University of Idaho’s stadium Wednesday night, family members of four slain classmates urged them to raise their eyes from grief and focus on love and the future.
15 hours ago
FILE - Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club is seen in the aerial view in Palm Beach, Fl...
Associated Press

Trump probe: Court halts Mar-a-Lago special master review

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday ended an independent review of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, removing a hurdle the Justice Department said had delayed its criminal investigation into the retention of top-secret government information. The decision by the three-judge panel represents a significant win for federal prosecutors, […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Environmentalists fight huge utility’s long-term contracts

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Distributors for the nation’s largest public utility signed onto what amounted to “never-ending” contracts that unfairly tied them to power generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, a lawyer argued Thursday as she represents environmental groups in a lawsuit. Southern Environmental Law Center lawyer Amanda Garcia spoke in Memphis federal court in […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Actor in ‘Green Book’ found dead on New York City street

NEW YORK (AP) — A man found dead on a New York City sidewalk this week was identified Thursday as Frank Vallelonga Jr., an actor who appeared in the Oscar-winning movie “Green Book.” Vallelonga, 60, is the son of one-time Copacabana bouncer Frank Vallelonga Sr., known as Tony Lip, who was portrayed by Viggo Mortensen […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Vermont settles religious schools tuition lawsuits

The Vermont Agency of Education and several school districts will pay tuition costs and legal fees to five families to settle lawsuits challenging the state’s practice of not paying for students to attend religious schools if their towns do not have a public school. In court filings late Wednesday, the two sides agreed to dismiss […]
15 hours ago
FILE - Former film producer Harvey Weinstein appears in court at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Crimina...
Associated Press

Weinstein lawyer in closing: ‘Tears do not make truth’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An attorney for Harvey Weinstein at his Los Angeles rape and sexual assault trial told jurors Thursday that prosecutors’ case relies entirely on asking them to trust women whose testimony showed they were untrustworthy. “Take my word for it,” Jackson told jurors in his closing argument. “Five words that sum up […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
EU weighs plans to impose rules on NGO migrant rescue ships