On 9-10 October 2014, the Justice and Home Affairs Council is meeting in Luxembourg.
Since the Amsterdam treaty, the policy on asylum, migration and judicial co-operation in civil matters was transferred to the Community pillar imposing minimum standards in the areas to be fulfilled by the Member States. It is for this reason that this Council meeting was, among others, touching upon issues related to asylum and migration. More specifically, the following was addressed today:
The Council in the Mixed Committee format (the EU plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) will be updated by the Commission, Frontex and EASO on the state of implementation of the operational actions within the context of the Task Force Mediterranean.
It will also be informed by the Greek minister about progress in the implementation of the revised Greek national action plan on asylum and migration.
Over lunch, Ministers are expected to discuss on taking action to better manage migratory flows on the basis of a paper presented by the Presidency.
It goes without saying that the irony of fact that “ministers are expected to discuss on taking actions to better manage migratory flows on the basis of a paper presented by the Presidency over lunch” reflects the distance of the policy makers from the reality of this issue, which is so close to the heart of an every-growing number of refugees and asylum-seekers as well as citizens of the European Union and beyond.
As pointed out by ProAsyl, centre of the discussion at the meeting was the increasing numbers of boat refugees in the Mediterranean and the distribution of refugees in the EU. This is also reflected in the following “Non-paper” or as referred to above as the “paper by the Presidency”.
Also the German Ministry of Interior had some suggestions. The demands raised out of “solidarity and responsibility” to Cecilia Malmström wish for a more efficient supervision of the borders, for a better monitoring of the migration flows, followed by the focus on human trafficking networks in the context of migration as well as the closer cooperation with the countries of origin of the migrants. Thus, leaving a genuine humanitarian concern for refugees and asylum-seekers outside the debate.
Returning to the content of the Council Meeting itself, it can be suggested that beginning in November, “Mare Nostrum”, costing 9 million Euro per month, is to be watered down and replaced by the Frontex operation “Triton”, costing 2.8 million Euro. Firstly, it is highly unlikely that now is the right time to save money in this area. Manuel Mallia, the President of Malta, insisted at the meeting that Frontex needs to be given sufficient financial sources to deal with this “matter of urgency”. Secondly, this new operation indeed aims at the reduction of the rescue area from 120 to 30 nautical miles off the Italian cost. And last but not least, the most significant change is that “Mare Nostrum” was a rescue operation whereas Frontex’s mandate as it stands now is tasked with border management. Unless Frontex’s mandate was to be altered to include rescue operations at sea, this new development is suggested to worsen the situation as it stands now.