Mare Nostrum ends as Triton takes over, says minister Alfano

'Take asylum requests in Africa'. Italy will still respect laws of sea

31 October, 20:32

    MARE NOSTRUM OPERATION - RESCUE MIGRANTS MARE NOSTRUM OPERATION - RESCUE MIGRANTS

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - Interior Minister Angelino Alfano confirmed Friday that Italy's Mare Nostrum migrant search and rescue operation ends Friday with the European Union's maritime patrol operation, Triton, taking over Saturday.

    Triton comes after strenuous pressure from Italy for the EU to take over its Mare Nostrum mission, which was set up in October 2013 after almost 400 people perished off the coast of Sicily in two migrant boat disasters.

    Italy has saved some 150,000 lives in the 12 months since Mare Nostrum began.

    "Mare Nostrum was conceived as a limited, emergency operation after the Lampedusa tragedy, and it went on longer than expected," Alfano said. "Today we can say Italy did its duty".

    Operated by EU border agency Frontex, Triton will employ six ships, two airplanes and a helicopter, and will have bases on the island of Lampedusa - Italy's southernmost point, where most vessels sailing from North Africa first make landfall - and Porto Empedocle on the coast of Sicily.

    But with only one-third of the budget of Mare Nostrum, officials have said Triton will emphasize border control over rescue.

    Alfano stressed the monetary advantages to Italy of no longer having to save refugee lives on its own. Triton will have a budget of three million euros a month, while Italy spent 9.5 million euros a month on Mare Nostrum, he said.

    TAKE ASYLUM REQUESTS IN AFRICA, SAYS ALFANO

    Europe should set up "welcome zones" for warzone refugees in Africa and try to process asylum requests there before waiting for boat people to cross the Mediterranean, Interior Minister also said Friday.

    Italy will continue to respect the laws of the sea even after the EU's Operation Triton takes over from Italy's bigger Mare Nostrum operation on Saturday, Alfano added. He said the Frontex operation "could never strip a country of its responsibilities to meet laws" including migrant rescue. (ANSAmed). 

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