More Migrant Deaths Feared as Europe Winds Down Mediterranean Mission

EU | November 1, 2014, Saturday // 11:49|  views

Fears of a rise in migrant deaths at sea have increased as a Mediterranean coastal mission by the EU formally replaces  a much wider search and rescue operation by Italy on Saturday.

Operation Triton based in Italian waters has only one-third of the budget of Italy’s naval rescue operation Mare Nostrum off the coast of Libya it is going to replace.

According to some experts, reduced funding for Triton will make it harder for the EU to rescue migrants often risking their lives at sea, trying to reach Italy in unseaworthy boats, the BBC said.

Italy, which began its Mare Nostrum operation last year after more than 300 migrants drowned while trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, has rescued more than 150,000 at sea during the operation.

While the Italian Navy had a monthly budget of EUR 9.5M for Mare Nostrum, Operation Triton, which will be run by the EU border control agency Frontex, will be able to spend only EUR 2.9M a month, Italy's Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Friday.

Much more importantly, however, Triton’s operating area will be limited to 30 nautical miles from the Italian coast, whereas ships and aircraft involved in Mare Nostrum conducted proactive search and rescue across 27,000 square miles of open sea to save migrants in distress. 

The European Commission has said 21 EU member states have promised to take part in Triton that will have a staff of 65 and four airplanes, one helicopter and six patrol boats to search for migrants in distress near its coasts.An increase in Triton's budget in 2015 will need the approval of the European Parliament and EU governments, the Commission has said.

Italy deployed deployed five ships, including two frigates with helicopter landing pads, an amphibious ship with a crew of 180 and two patrol vessels, as well as drones in its Mare Nostrum operation.

With its long, meandering coastline and numerous islands,Italy isthe European country most exposed to the wave of migrants from Africa and the Middle East trying to flee poverty and wars in their countries and reach Europe. The boot-shaped country leads Europe in migrant arrivals by sea, which surged nine-fold year-on-year in the first quarter of this year.




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Tags: Italy, EU, European Commission, Mare Nostrum, Triton, migrants, sea, Mediterranean


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