EU Summit to Offer Resettlement to Only 5,000 Refugees

Alan Travis, Guardian, April 23, 2015

Only 5,000 resettlement places across Europe are to be offered to refugees under the emergency summit crisis package to be agreed by EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

A confidential draft summit statement seen by the Guardian indicates that the vast majority of those who survive the journey and make it to Italy–150,000 did so last year–will be sent back as irregular migrants under a new rapid-return programme co-ordinated by the EU’s border agency, Frontex. More than 36,000 boat survivors have reached Italy, Malta and Greece so far this year.

The draft summit conclusions also reveal that hopes of a major expansion of search-and-rescue operations across the Mediterranean in response to the humanitarian crisis are likely to be dashed, despite widespread and growing pressure.

The summit statement merely confirms the decision by EU foreign and interior ministers on Monday to double funding in 2015 and 2016 and “reinforce the assets” of the existing Operation Triton and Operation Poseidon border-surveillance operations, which only patrol within 30 miles of the Italian coast.

The European council’s conclusions said this move “should increase the search-and-rescue possibilities within the mandate of Frontex”. The head of Frontex said on Wednesday that Triton should not be an operation primarily aimed at search and rescue.

Instead, the EU leaders are likely to agree that immediate preparations should begin to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”. The joint EU military operation is to be undertaken within international law.

The statement describes the crisis as a tragedy and says the EU will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency, including co-operating with the countries of origin and transit.

“Our immediate priority is to prevent more people dying at sea. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity,” it says, before adding that the EU leaders intend to support all efforts to re-establish government authority in Libya and address key “push” factors such as the situation in Syria.

But the detail of the communique makes it clear that the measures to be agreed fall far short of this ambition.

In particular in terms of sharing responsibility across the EU the draft statement suggests only “setting up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering at least 5,000 places to persons qualifying for protection”, it says.

The EU leaders also make a commitment to “increasing emergency aid to frontline member states”–taken to mean Italy, Malta and Greece–“and consider options for organising emergency relocation between member states”.

Emergency teams are to be deployed to Italy to help register, fingerprint and process applications for asylum protection as refugees. Increased support is also to be given to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger to monitor and control their land borders to prevent potential migrants getting to the shore of the Mediterranean.

EU leaders are expected to stress their determination to fight the traffickers and will promise to bring them to justice, seize their assets and make a concerted attempt to take down any online material likely to attract migrants and refugees.

On Monday, ministers and the European Commission agreed to bolster the Triton mission, to increase its funding and assets, and to expand the operational area of Triton, which is run by Frontex. But the head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, said on the eve of the summit that saving migrants’ lives should not be the priority for his maritime patrols despite the clamour for a more humane response after the deaths of 800 refugees and migrants at the weekend.

He flatly dismissed turning the Triton mission into a search-and-rescue operation and voiced strong doubts about new EU pledges to tackle human traffickers and their vessels in Libya.

“Triton cannot be a search-and-rescue operation. I mean, in our operational plan, we cannot have provisions for proactive search-and-rescue action. This is not in Frontex’s mandate, and this is, in my understanding, not in the mandate of theEuropean Union,” Leggeri said. Instead, he appealed for planes to conduct aerial surveillance so they could anticipate more disasters.

The summit comes as a joint letter to EU leaders signed by more than 50 former European prime ministers, foreign ministers and business leaders, condemned the death toll of migrants in the Mediterranean as a “stain on the conscience of our continent” and demanded the immediate restoration of expansive search-and-rescue operations. Signatories include the former EU commissioner and Conservative party chairman, Chris Patten; the former Swedish prime minister, Carl Bilt; French former foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner; and George Soros of the Open Society Foundation.

The letter appeals to EU leaders to go beyond the 10-point plan agreed by foreign and interior ministers on Monday and instead calls for an immediate restoration of expansive rescue operations “with a mandate and level of funding that match the humanitarian emergency that confronts us”. The letter says the decision to withdraw support last October for Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation had only succeeded in vastly increasing the number of deaths.

Patten said: “Today’s crisis summit must be clear on its first and most urgent priority, increasing search and rescue back to at least previous levels. Addressing the drivers of migration, from conflict to human trafficking, climate change to human rights abuses is also critically important but will take a longer term strategy to address. My message to EU leaders is clear–history will judge you harshly if you fudge this.”

David Cameron made clear on Wednesday his intention to support an expansion of search-and-rescue operations when he and the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, declared that the “coastguard policy”–a reference to Triton–that replaced Mare Nostrum, had not worked. “Now we need to make sure we do more to save lives. That will involve more search and rescue, and there is a contribution I’m sure we can make to that,” Cameron said.

But it is understood that the British prime minister was facing stiff opposition from his own home secretary, Theresa May, and his foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, in his intention to support the expansion of search-and-rescue operations at the summit beyond the limited Triton measures agreed on Monday.

May and Hammond were said on Wednesdaynot to be budging from their belief that such rescue operations would create a “pull factor” and lead to more deaths by encouraging more migrants to risk the dangerous sea crossing.

“May is still holding out for a deterrent approach. She wants to focus on action against the traffickers and a rapid returns programme,” one Brussels source said.

“May and Hammond have been pushing back, partly for face-saving reasons, given that they were so involved in the initial decision last October to demand an immediate withdrawal of the Italian Mare Nostrum,” said another source.

Cameron is understood to have shifted his position this week as the extensive media coverage convinced Downing Street and Tory election strategists that voters see the tragedy in the Mediterranean as a humanitarian crisis rather than an immigration issue. He is now expected to override the objections of his home secretary and foreign secretary. “He will have to bump them into it,” said one source.

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  • Oil Can Harry

    Put Katie Hopkins in charge of repelling the invaders.

  • WR_the_realist

    Why accept 5,000? As soon as you agree to 5,000, you’ll get 500,000. And be called a racist if you don’t like it.

    • D. Strange

      Yes, but for today’s Europe this shows a lot of backbone.

    • Light from the East

      How would you benefit from these 5000 people? Sharia laws? no-go zone? welfare exploiters? conflicts? terror attack? civil wars?

  • Avner Lipschitz, DDS

    I’d say they overshot a reasonable compromise by 5,000 refugees or so.

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    • Blackfish

      As soon as they are “settled” they will likely be eligible to bring their extended families over. We can’t separate families, can we??

      Look for that number to quintuple before too much longer.

  • mobilebay

    Seems like there are going to be a lot of empty countries. Maybe we need some modern day Columbus to stake out a few places and invite only whites who want a country of their own to re-populate. Of course, as soon as it was settled, the “migrants” would want to come back so they could be taken care of. Guess there’s no escape.

    • Speedy Steve

      If all the White, straight Christians lived in their own country with the death penalty, the first people to demand admission would be tailors, jewelers, and moneylenders. They’d demand an end to that unjust death penalty, and then the tawnies would be invited in to clean their houses.

  • Reynardine

    The rapid-return will take 2-5 years, by the end of which most of the refugees will have gone under the radar and disappeared into the ghetto.

    Try again, how about this time with “no resettlement.”

  • George Costanza

    Resettle 5,000? They need to resettle the hundreds of thousands that have illegally enterd Europe back to there country of origin. POSTHASTE!!

    • BulgAryan

      Mauritania will be happy to have them for $100 a head; they need more slaves.

  • BulgAryan

    The first 150,000 going home?
    What about millions of others who came before them?
    What about multicultural enrichment?
    “Euro-Atlantic values”?
    “Tolerance”?
    “Liberalism”?

    • BulgAryan

      My forecast: The USA will use the EU institutions to kick the ass of these rebellious “leaders” who oppose the US plan to change the demography and to weaken Europe as a continent, as a Union, and countries.

      And in the end it will not pass.

    • George Moriarty

      The latest pro-immigration group to surface here in Australia is called “Grannies Unite” They are making a lot of noise and are suggesting that Australia has lost it’s compassion.
      I don’t think we have lost our (genuine) compassion but we are certainly losing our identity.

      • Speedy Steve

        See what happens when you let women vote?

  • KenelmDigby

    They won’t ‘send anyone home’.
    You just wait and see. Once the fuss has died down and the media spotlight is looking the other way, they will be sneaked into Europe.

  • Paleoconn

    Only 5,000? That’s 5,000 too many. Escort the boats back to African shores and torpedo them. Also, get rid of Schengen. The deadbeat southern Europeans welcome illegals and push them north.