EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini told the UN Security Council Monday that “migrants and refugees won’t be sent back”.
“I want to be clear on this,” she said. “The Geneva Convention will be fully respected”.
Taking action on the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean “is a moral duty, and we’re here to act”.
“An exceptional situation requires exceptional measures,” she added.
“We need a partnership in what must be a common, global effort,” she said. “We must work in partnership with Libya to combat the migrant traffickers”.
The EU strategy is based on four key points, which are aid to countries of origin and transit, border control south of Libya and in neighbouring countries, security and defense missions against human traffickers, and the most thorny point of all – the mandatory distribution of migrants based on a quota system based on the wealth of different member countries, their unemployment rates, and the number of asylum requests already granted.
Europe can rely on a cooperation and development budget worth approximately 20 billion euros for this effort, sources said. The European Commission would be able to fast-track the quota measure – which is strongly supported by Commission P President Jean-Claude Juncker – on the basis of this article, pending approval by a majority European Council vote. The veto opposed by some countries would not be sufficient to block the measure.
The the draft currently circulating does not specify how many refugees are to be distributed via the quota system, with estimates varying between 5,000 to 20,000.
In an April 29 speech to the European Parliament, Juncker had blasted the response to the Mediterranean migrant crisis that came out of an extraordinary EU summit the previous week as “insufficient”.
Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Paolo Gentiloni said it would take 10 more days to ascertain whether more EU members besides France, Great Britain, Lithuania, and Spain would back the plan.
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi had lobbied for that summit after a migrant shipwreck in which over 700 people are feared to have died – the latest in a long series of such maritime disasters amid a big increase in the flow of migrants from North Africa to southern Europe.
At the summit, EU leaders agreed to triple funding for Mediterranean rescue operations, but there was no consensus on fairer sharing of the migrants that arrive.
Also on Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed support for EU efforts.
“The EU is working to come up with a complete response to the tragedy in the Mediterranean,” he said. “I hope an accord on the mandate will be reached”.
As well, a senior representative at the United Nations warned some 20,000 people could die in the Mediterranean by autumn if urgent measures are not soon taken. Peter Sutherland, representing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also praised Italy for its work rescuing migrants.
“Italy continues to save lives,” said Sutherland.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella said Monday that the EU is capable of absorbing migrants arriving on “the shores of Europe”. “No one can ignore the fact that refugees who arrive on our shores are seeking (life) in the EU and no one can deny that the Union can absorb them,” the president said.