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Migrants in the Mediterranean/emergency meeting of the Council of the European Union

Published on April 22, 2015
Statements by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, following the extraordinary Council of the EU
Luxembourg, April 20, 2015

M. FABIUS – The situation in the Mediterranean is exceptionally serious, and that’s the purpose of the meeting that has just been held, involving the interior ministers – and thus Bernard Cazeneuve – and the foreign ministers – and thus myself.
The cause of this terrible tragedy, as you know, is a combination of abject poverty, trafficking and political anarchy in a number of countries. And so Commissioner Avramopoulos proposed 10 measures which we hope will be effective, even though it does have to be said that things are extremely difficult.

Among those measures, attention must be drawn particularly to the wish to destroy – and I mean destroy – the traffickers’ boats, quite obviously before those boats take on migrants, and to an extremely determined battle against trafficking in general, because the smugglers and those who finance them are criminals.

There are also measures aimed at the countries of origin, because those poor people don’t come from nowhere. So there must be contacts, actions taken, with the countries of origin. And then, when they arrive on European soil, we must distinguish between those who have the right to asylum – and quite obviously that asylum must be organized in the different countries – and those who come for economic reasons and won’t be able to stay on European soil.

In any case, France is utterly determined. We can’t tolerate the Mediterranean becoming a graveyard; that’s the point of the actions we’re taking.

Q. – Mustn’t the resources of Frontex and Operation Triton in particular be strengthened?

M. CAZENEUVE – Yes, in addition to what the Foreign Minister has just said, and to answer your question, we essentially stressed four points.

Firstly, not the need to change the nature of Triton, which is both an operation to control the European Union’s external borders and at the same time an operation that must run the units mobilized to intervene in the event of a boat sinking, because the law of the sea applies to Triton. So more resources are needed, more vessels. We all agreed, moreover, that this allocation of additional resources was necessary to save lives and also to enable Triton to fulfil the mandate it was originally given.

Secondly, as Laurent Fabius was just saying, we must fight very hard against the illegal immigration rings. There’s an international convention that was reached in Palermo in 2000, to which a protocol was added concerning human trafficking. This convention must be implemented strictly in every state, and the behaviour of those who engage in this human trafficking – wherever they may be – must be genuinely punished in every state, and that’s a very important point, in addition to cooperation between police and intelligence services, in achieving the goal of combating illegal immigration rings.

As regards the destruction of boats, it will be all the more effective if we have genuine cooperation between police forces to identify illegal immigration rings and set about destroying those boats.

Thirdly, there’s work to be done from the countries or origin. The more we manage to organize ourselves ­– particularly with the IOM – to ensure that people eligible for asylum are identified in the countries of origin, the less room will be left to those involved in illegal immigration and the safer we’ll make the journeys of those eligible for asylum in Europe – and that was a very important point we all agreed on, too.

Finally, Triton must be beefed up and possibly given additional resources by the different countries in Italy, where the migrants are arriving, so that we can distinguish, as Laurent Fabius was just saying, between those eligible for asylum and those who are part of illegal immigration. If we do want to take in those migrants eligible for asylum, we must be able – in the framework of very close agreements with countries, particularly in West Africa – to organize the return, in humane conditions, of those who are part of illegal immigration.

M. FABIUS – As you see, it’s a series of 10 very specific decisions. We now mustn’t hide from the fact that their implementation will be both firm and difficult, because it’s an extraordinarily difficult problem and we’ll need all the energy of the heads of state and government, who are going to meet on Thursday to give even more political impetus to these decisions we’ve taken today.

Thank you./.

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