France has shouldered its responsibilities since start of migration crisis

Migration – France has been shouldering its responsibilities in the Mediterranean since the start of the migration crisis – Communiqué issued by the Ministry of the Interior

Paris, 29 June 2019

For the record, the situation no longer bears any resemblance to how it was in the past. In 2016, 180,000 people from Libya disembarked in Italy. In 2018, there were no more than 23,000. This year we stand at 3,500 in the first six months of 2019 – i.e. a new reduction of 80% compared with the same period last year. The number of deaths at sea has also gone down, but it is still, unfortunately, too high (nearly 600 people missing in the Mediterranean in 2019, compared to more than 5,000 in 2016).

It is wrong to say the EU has not shown Italy solidarity in this context. Nearly 13,000 migrants in need of protection who arrived in Italy in 2016-2017 were received in other European countries, including France, in a period when Italy had opted for close cooperation with its European partners. Since 2015, the EU has paid Italy €951 million to support security and border management (€435 million), as well as asylum, immigration and integration (€516 million). At the height of the crisis, hundreds of EU personnel were deployed on the ground to support the Italian authorities (322 officers from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex; 216 from the European Asylum Support Office, EASO; and 27 from Europol in 2017). Together we have worked on solutions to reduce the number of departures from Libya, by working with the countries of origin and transit as well as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

France has also made an unprecedented commitment to resettle 10,000 refugees between 2017 and 2019 straight from their places of transit, to prevent them risking their lives on dangerous journeys. Nearly 8,000 have already arrived in our country. We are actively showing solidarity.

Now that the migration crisis has drastically diminished in scale with the implementation of these measures, the current Italian government is opting for solutions without consulting its European partners, while criticizing Europe and its member states for a lack of solidarity. It has therefore announced the closing of its ports, in violation of the international law of the sea, while people rescued at sea continue to disembark in Italy, due to the presence of NGO vessels as much as Italian coastguard vessels.

Against such a background, Italy still needs this European solidarity which it is nonetheless criticizing. For example, over the past few months, in cooperation with other member states and under European coordination, France has already taken in nearly 400 people in need of protection who disembarked in Italy and Malta.

Regarding Sea-Watch 3, Christophe Castaner responded to the coordination effort the European Commission set in train at the beginning of the week by saying that France was prepared to take in 10 people in need of protection who disembarked from Sea-Watch 3, along with several other European partners who made similar pledges. Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero welcomed this commitment.

With Sea-Watch 3 entering the port of Lampedusa last night, France is once again prepared to deploy within the next few days, as it has already done several times over the past year, a mission from the Interior Ministry and the Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) to identify 10 people in need of protection who could be transferred immediately to our country.

France will continue its efforts in solidarity with the Italian people to take in people in need of protection. Christophe Castaner also calls once again on all his European counterparts to establish a permanent solidarity mechanism to ensure that people rescued at sea can disembark swiftly and safely at the nearest safe port, in the framework of a predictable, reliable European system which complies with international law.

This in no way detracts from the need to continue our efforts jointly in order to combat illegal immigration together and reform our asylum policy. This is the plan to overhaul Schengen which the President has formulated and which Christophe Castaner will promote in the coming months./.

Published on 09/01/2020

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