Sea rescue: where is Triton?

di sabato, Luglio 25, 2015 0 , Permalink

A somewhat shorter version of this text, titled Migranti salvati in mare, ma dov’è finito Triton? appeared on July 25, 2015 on the Italian newspaper «Il Fatto Quotidiano».

After the shipwreck occurred on April 18, the European Union committed itself to intensify search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean [1] and, on May 25, the European Agency Frontex announced the signature of a new plan for the Triton mission aimed at providing assistance – with an increased availability of technical and financial resources – up to 138 nautical miles south of Sicily, almost quintupling its operational area.

Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director of Frontex, has affirmed that, during the peak summer, Triton will deploy 3 airplanes, 6 Offshore Patrol Vessels, 12 patrol boats and 2 helicopters in order “to support the Italian authorities in controlling its sea borders and in saving lives, too many of which have already been tragically lost this year”. [2]

For a while, it seemed that several Member States, through the deployment of their own vessels, had organised a humanitarian mission – a sort of European Mare Nostrum – and in June no deaths by shipwreck have been registered. However, this commitment was limited to a few weeks. At the end of June, after having saved more than 3,000 refugees, the British Navy has recalled its warship Bulwark I – with the capacity to hold up to 800 people – replacing it with the Oceanographic vessel Enterprise, which can hold 120 people [3]. After June 30, even the German ships Schleswig-Holstein and Werra disappeared.

Since the beginning of July we see again people dying in the sea. At least 12 persons drowned in the shipwreck of four boats in the Channel of Sicily [4] and more than 100 dead bodies have been retrieved by the Libyan Coast Guard off the coast of Tripoli. [5] All that occurred in the substantial indifference of the media. Frontex and the European Union did not take part in rescue operations that, instead, have been carried out by three private humanitarian ships of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), [6] Médecins Sans Frontières and Sea-Watch, together with units of the Italian Coast Guard and the Navy and the few ships remained among those made available by the Member States. It is not clear whether the latter are part or not of the Triton mission, since the official governmental websites specify that those ships have been made available by the single States under the coordination of the operations centreof the Italian Coast Guard. The same ambiguity surrounds the “status” of the Irish ship LÉ Niamh: there is no reference to the Triton-Frontex mission with regard to its rescue operations but, instead, to”joint operations carried on with the Italian Navy”. [7]

The situation described by the crew of the German NGO Sea-Watch – which saved with its ship 587 persons in six days – is worrying: “Not a single day passed out here without a rescue mission […] We would like to thank very much the organizations MSF (Doctors Without Borders) und MOAS, who also do excellent work here, for the fantastic cooperation […] but we do ask ourselves what the ships of the EU mission Triton and Eunavfor Med are actually doing. We have not seen them here! […] The European Union does not seem to take sea rescue seriously […] We feel left alone by the European Union and the Federal Government”. [8]

It would appear that the first of July there has been a hand-over from the Triton operation to the Eunavfor Med mission but nobody is still aware of its details; as far as we know this choice has created an operational vacuum full of consequences – as demonstrated by the today’s shipwreck in which more than 40 persons have lost their lives off the Libyan coast – that in the next weeks could lead to the loss of other human lives. All the warning signals are in front of us though these are ignored by the media:

On July 2, the ship Dattilo of the Italian Navy rescued 904 migrants and escorted them to the harbour of Reggio Calabria. [9]

On July 9, the Italian Coast Guard retrieved 12 corpses and rescued 500 shipwrecked persons.[10]

On July 14, the Libyan Coast Guard retrieved more than 100 corpses of Sub-Saharan migrants in front of the coasts of Tripoli. [11]

On July 16, the ship Dattilo rescued 835 persons – for the most part originating from Sub-Saharan countries and departed from Libya – during four consecutive shipwrecks in the Channel of Sicily. [12]

On July 17, a patrol boat of the Coast Guard, coming from Lampedusa, saved 200 migrants.

On July 19, the ship of Médecins Sans Frontières saved 129 persons, among whom there were 13 women and 12 children. [13]

On July 22, the ship LÉ Niamh of the Irish Navy escorted 370 shipwrecked persons to Palermo. [14] A patrol boat of the Italian Coast Guard saved 578 migrants and escorted them to Messina. [15] In Lampedusa, the Italian Coast Guard saved 414 migrants, including 4 infants, who were shipwrecked from four different boats. [16]

On July 23, the German warship Schleswig-Holstein has escorted to Augusta 283 refugees departed from Tripoli who were shipwrecked from three different boats. At least 40 people died. [17]

According to the statement made by Fabrice Leggeri on May 25, the Commission would have “provided Frontex with additional EUR 26.25 million to strengthen Operation Triton in Italy and Poseidon Sea in Greece from June 2015 until the end of the year”, [18] so tripling Triton’s resources. The Commission should clarify what happened with those funds and how have been spent; which and how many ships are currently operating in the Mediterranean and if there is a link with the Triton mission.

Do the activities of Frontex involve also the rescue operations carried out by the Italian Coast Guard and navy units of the single Member States? What relations do exist between the Triton mission and the Eunavfor Med mission in the light of the fact that, according to an “internal and confidential memo made in Brussels”, the new hotspot of Catania will be managed – as far as the coordination of the activities related to reception of migrants are concerned – by a team of four officials coming from Frontex and one from Europol, Easo and Eurojust respectively and will serve as a liaison for the anti-traffickers naval force in the Mediterranean Eunavfor Med? [19]

What kind of measures the European Union will adopt for not being responsible for other human catastrophes in the sea that could possibly occurduring the next few weeks in July and August?

Con decisione del Consiglio straordinario convocato il 23 aprile e successive delibere della Commissione e del Consiglio.

[2] Frontex expands its joint operation Triton, 26 maggio 2015.

[3] Gov.Uk, HMS Enterprise to replace HMS Bulwark in the Mediterranean, 22 giugno 2015.

[4] Canale di Sicilia, soccorsi quattro barconi. Morti almeno 12 migranti, 393 tratti in salvo, SiciliaMigranti, 10 luglio 2015.

[5] Cento morti sulle coste libiche, SiciliaMigranti, 15 luglio 2015.

[6] Voyage of the damned, The Mail of Sunday, 21 July 2015.

[7] Cfr.:
LE Niamh rescues over 360 migrants in Mediterranean
, The Irish Times, 20 July 2015.
Defence Forces Ireland;
Defence Forces Ireland.

[8] Sea-Watch, Situation report of the MS Sea-Watch after: 2nd operation: sea rescue of 587 people and request to the European Union to take over their responsibility for sea rescue, Berlin, 17 July 2015.

[9] La nave Dattilo trasporta 904 migranti a Reggio Calabria, Ministero dell’Interno, 2 luglio 2015. A bordo erano presenti “904 migranti provenienti da Marocco, Libia, Nigeria, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Costa d’Avorio, Togo, Guinea, Siria, Palestina, Tunisia, Pakistan. Tra loro erano presenti 697 uomini, 147 donne (3 in stato di gravidanza) e 60 minori, 27 dei quali non accompagnati”.

[10] Immigrati: tragedia a nord Libia, 12 morti; 500 tratti in salvo, AGI, 9 luglio 2015.

[11] Bodies Wash up on Libyan Shore, Migrant Report, 14 July 2015.

[12] Migranti, 835 soccorsi dalla nave Dattilo nel canale di Sicilia, Il Fatto Quotidiano, 17 luglio 2015.

[13] MSF Sea Rescue.

[14] Mille migranti arrivati in Sicilia, 370 sbarcati a Palermo, La Repubblica, 22 luglio 2015.

[15] Ivi.

[16] Guardia costiera salva 414 migranti, Pupia Tv, 22 luglio 3015.

[17] Migranti, naufragio con decine di vittime al largo della Libia, La Repubblica, 23 luglio 2015.

[18] Frontex expands its Joint Operation Triton.

[19] Gli ispettori dell’UE in Italia contro le fughe dei migranti, La Stampa, 22 luglio 2015.

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