Triton sea op 'inadequate', UNHCR urges EU change

Migrant deaths in Mediterranean show flaws, says UN body

12 February, 17:22

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, FEBRUARY 12 - The deaths of more than 300 migrants in the Mediterranean this week has highlighted the flaws in the Operation Triton program, the chief of the UN's human rights body said Thursday.

    "There can be no doubt left after this week's events that Europe's Operation Triton is a woefully inadequate replacement for Italy's Mare Nostrum," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

    It called on the European Union (EU) to urgently change its approach to dealing with migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea and make saving lives the highest priority.

    "The focus has to be about saving lives. We need a robust search-and-rescue operation in the Central Mediterranean, not only a border patrol," he said in a statement.

    He spoke as European leaders were meeting in Brussels.

    Italy established Mare Nostrum in October 2013 after about 400 migrants drowned in two separate incidents.

    The program was replaced by the EU's Triton operation last November.

    Triton, with a monthly budget of 2.9 million euros, coordinates the deployment of three open sea patrol vessels, two coastal patrol vessels, two coastal patrol boats, two aircraft, and one helicopter in the Central Mediterranean. That is considerably smaller than Mare Nostrum, which reached into international waters in the search and rescue of migrants.

    A handful of migrants rescued earlier this week said that four inflatable rafts with about 100 people each set out last Saturday but most died in the stormy and cold weather.

    The UNHCR said that last year saw a dramatic increase in the number of refugees fleeing conflicts in Syria, the Horn of Africa, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

    Many set out for Europe, often making dangerous sea crossings that brought them to Italy and some of Europe's southernmost shores. The UN noted that about 3,500 people lost their lives on the Mediterranean last year and about 218,000 in total crossed the sea for Europe.

    Guterres said that Europe's response to the growing scale of the migrant issue is not adequate and a program like Mare Nostrum is essential, he said.

    "Otherwise, it is inevitable that many other people will die in the attempt to achieve safety in Europe," he said.(ANSAmed).

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved

    Business opportunities

    The information system of business
    opportunities abroad

    News from Mediterranean