Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus: “NGO boats are not in line with international law”

After her harsh confrontation with the French government on immigration, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni responds with a joint letter from the interior ministers of Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus, that is, “the countries of first entry into Europe, to through the Central and Eastern Mediterranean route, who bear the heaviest burden of managing migratory flows in the Mediterranean, in full compliance with all international obligations and EU standards.” “We have always strongly supported the need to develop a new European policy on migration and asylum, truly inspired by the principles of solidarity and responsibility, and that is shared equally among all Member States,” reads the joint declaration of the interior ministers of the four countries mentioned, who ask for an urgent EU summit on immigration, at ministerial level, which could take place at the end of November.

The joint note from the interior ministers of the four countries mentioned comes the day after the 230 immigrants aboard the Ocean Viking belonging to the NGO SOS Méditerranée disembarked in Toulon, after Italy denied permission to dock at one of its ports, which that originated a hard confrontation between Rome and Paris. On Thursday, the French government announced the suspension “with immediate effect” of the planned reception of 3,500 refugees currently in Italy. In addition, also in protest at Rome’s refusal to authorize the Ocean Viking landing, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin asked “all other participating countries” in the European mechanism for the relocation of immigrants, “in particular Germany”, to suspend the reception of refugees currently in Italy. On Friday, the prime minister, Giorgia Meloniwas clear when addressing Macron and the EU leaders: “Rather than isolating Italy, it would be better to isolate the human traffickers.”

The letter from the four interior ministers leaves no room for doubt about the way in which the NGO boats will act. “We cannot subscribe to the idea that the countries of first entry are the only possible European disembarkation points for illegal immigrants, especially when this happens in an uncoordinated way on the basis of a choice made by private vessels, which act in complete autonomy from competent state authorities. “We reiterate our position – the joint letter continues – on the fact that the way these private vessels act does not conform to the spirit of the international legal framework on search and rescue operations. Each State must effectively exercise jurisdiction and control over ships flying its own flag.

Disappointment over the distribution of immigrants

The interior ministers of Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus express their disappointment about the European distribution of immigrants. «On June 10 we approved a Political Declaration that establishes a mechanism for temporary and voluntary relocation, despite the fact that the Med5 countries (Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus) supported a mandatory relocation scheme -the four ministers-. Unfortunately, the number of relocation commitments made by participating Member States represents only a very small fraction of the actual number of irregular arrivals we have received so far this year. Furthermore, to date, the mechanism has been slow to achieve its stated objective of alleviating the burden to which all of us, as front-line Member States, are constantly exposed, as only a small number have been carried out so far. of relocations”. All of this “is unfortunate and disappointing, especially at this time when our countries are increasingly facing migratory pressure that is putting our asylum and reception system to the test,” the joint letter reads.

The joint declaration of the four interior ministers of Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus concludes that the European Union must urgently initiate a serious debate: “With full respect for the competences of the coastal States in accordance with international law, we believe that it is urgent and necessary a serious debate on how to better coordinate these operations in the Mediterranean, also ensuring that all private vessels respect international conventions and other applicable regulations.

The numbers of migratory flows

The problem of immigration has once again become one of the priorities of the new Italian Government, after the Executive of Mario Draghi had passed into the background. Giorgia Meloni airs that Italy is the European country that receives the most illegal immigrants, because so far this year more than 90,000 have arrived on Italian shores. But many thousands use Italy as a transit nation, and then choose Germany, France or the Nordic countries as their final destination. According to data from the International Organization for Migration, from January 1, 2022 to November 11, 90,297 landed in Italy, while 26,341 landed in Spain; in Greece, 7,684; and in Cyprus, 13,474.

Observing the data on asylum requests, published by La Repubblica, Italy occupies only fourth place, according to Eurostat figures for 2021. Specifically, it received 45,200 asylum requests, less than half of France, which received 103,800, and is only surpassed by Germany with 148,000. Data that, updated to the first five months of 2022, confirm the upward trend (300,000 applications, +85%) and increase the difference between Italy (53,640 applications) and France (120,685), while Germany has already received 190,545 applications for asylum and Spain more than 65,000.

Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus: “NGO boats are not in line with international law”