Connect with us

Global Affairs

EU talks migration over dinner, as NGO rescue-ship sets sail

Voice Of EU

Published

on

As EU heads of state and government gather in Brussels to discuss migration, the Ocean Viking search and rescue vessel is preparing to set sail from the French port of Marseille.

The Norwegian-flagged boat is chartered by SOS Méditerranée, a humanitarian organisation that has rescued close to 33,000 people over the past few years.

  • EUobserver’s journalist will be on board the Ocean Viking over the coming weeks

Over that same period, EU member states have been unable to muster a coordinated response amid political wrangling over migration and asylum reforms.

“There is a failure of solidarity among European states,” said Sophie Beau, who co-founded SOS Méditerranée in 2015.

“It is really an emergency, the summer is coming, we know it every year,” she said on Wednesday (23 June) in a telephone call.

Thousands of people have since perished and many more likely to have drowned without a trace in a sea that has since become the world’s deadliest migratory route.

On Thursday, EU leaders are set to claim that saving lives is a priority in a broader discussion on migration. Those talks are set to kick off late afternoon and then possibly roll over into dinner at 8PM.

They will also reinforce their shared objective to boost relations with countries of origin and transit, including renewed efforts to seal a new migrant-swap deal with Turkey.

“The angle is on the external dimension of migration,” a senior EU diplomat told reporters in Brussels.

German Bundestag president Wolfgang Schäuble drew a more concise picture.

“We will only make progress if we cooperate with regimes,” he had told the European Parliament earlier this month.

“There are moral costs, ladies and gentlemen, that we will have to assume,” he added.

Among those costs is Libya and its notorious detention centres, where up to 5,000 migrants and refugees are essentially being held hostage until they can pay their way out.

Recent reports of rapes and sexual abuse of minors have surfaced at the government run Shara al-Zawiya detention centre in Tripoli.

One 15 year old girl was rushed to the hospital after attempting suicide.

Doctors without Borders (MSF) has also pulled out of two Tripoli-based detention centres, Mabani and Abu Salim.

The head of MSF Libya, Beatrice Lau, said the persistent levels of violence against everyone “has reached a level that we are no longer able to accept.”

The new unity government is also making life difficult for other humanitarian aid workers, including the EU-funded UN Refugee Agency.

But for the Ocean Viking and its 30-odd crew of experienced seafarers and rescuers, the mission ahead is clear.

“Nothing has improved these last six years unfortunately and so our objective today is to still save lives,” said Beau.

Equipment and food is currently being loaded onto the boat as it prepares to sail towards international waters off Libya.

The race is against time and a reinforced EU trained and financed Libyan Coast Guard that has intercepted some 14,000 people so far this year, often with the help of Turkey.

At the shipyard in Marseille, the 70-metre Ocean Viking was dwarfed by the surrounding luxury cruise liners on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, on board, a hospital unit, medical staff, and a search and rescue team are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

In April, they witnessed the tragic aftermath of a drowning that had killed 130.

Those lucky enough to be found alive will be brought onboard and cared for. Women and children will be placed in a shared facility and separated from men.

Behind one of the shelters for women is a row of sinks for washing and steel mirrors.

“It can be quite emotional,” said Claire Juchat of SOS Méditerranée, motioning to the mirrors.

“Some haven’t seen themselves in a long time,” she said, suggesting that they may have been kept captive in Libya.

Source link

Global Affairs

Kill the Bill and period protests: human rights this fortnight – in pictures | Global development

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

‘No embargo’ on meetings with Putin, EU says

Voice Of EU

Published

on

EU leaders are free to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin despite his threats to start a new war with Ukraine, the EU foreign service has said. “There is no embargo on contacts and visits between member states and Russia. Each member state decides … on their own judgment,” the EU foreign service told EUobserver. The comment follows reports Croatia invited Putin to visit and that Hungary’s leader will meet him.

Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Vulnerable Malians could ‘pay the price’ of heavy sanctions, warn aid groups | Global development

Voice Of EU

Published

on

More than a dozen aid organisations have called for humanitarian exemptions to heavy sanctions imposed on Mali after the military leadership postponed planned February elections.

The EU has announced support for the sanctions imposed earlier this month by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which include closing borders and a trade embargo.

But this week, 13 international groups working in Mali warned of devastating consequences for the population, a third of whom rely on aid.

Humanitarian access is hindered by the Malian interim authorities’ decision to reciprocate border closures with Ecowas member states, except Guinea.

Thousands of people demonstrated against the sanctions last week in the capital Bamako, carrying placards saying “down with Ecowas” and “down with France”.

The country is in the grip of the worst food insecurity in 10 years.

A joint letter signed by the NGOs, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Care and the Norwegian Refugee Council, said: “To continue their work effectively, humanitarian actors must have unfettered access for the transportation of life-saving goods including food and medicine, as well as guarantees that they can transfer funds into the country without violating the sanctions.”

Mali’s current insecurity dates back to early 2012 when northern separatists rebelled against the government. Islamist militants that initially allied with the separatists, including Ansar Dine, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, ultimately hijacked the rebellion.

France, the former colonial ruler, made a military intervention in 2013 on the government’s side against the militants. The UN has also deployed an estimated 18,000 peacekeeping staff, in what was called its most dangerous mission.

The Malian military, led by Col Assimi Goïta, has conducted two coups in two years and reneged on promises to hold new elections. The junta’s most recent power grab, in May 2021, was the fifth coup since Mali’s independence in 1960 and it has been unwilling to commit to transition to civilian rule, despite international pressures.

Postponement of elections has been blamed on Islamist insecurity, an impasse that has deepened with the arrival of private military contractors belonging to the Russian mercenary firm Wagner Group. European states have condemned Wagner’s presence, concerned it will enable the military to hold on to power.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said this month that EU sanctions on Mali were in part in response to the involvement of Russian contractors. France is withdrawing troops, but 14 other EU members, led by Sweden, had established a taskforce to replace them in a three-year mandate. As tensions intensified over the Wagner Group, Sweden said last week that it had decided to withdraw its troops.

France, which holds the rotating EU presidency, has been vociferous in its support of sanctions but Russia and China have blocked the UN security council’s move to follow suit.

Ecowas has frozen financial aid and Malian assets at the Central Bank of West African States.

Elena Vicario, director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Mali, said: “Malians are already bearing the brunt of the humanitarian catastrophe, punctuated by horrifying attacks against civilians. Sanctions must not hold us back from delivering essential assistance in a country where drought, rising insecurity, and the economic impacts of Covid-19 are already pushing millions of Malians over the edge.”

Franck Vannetelle, the IRC’s country director in Mali, echoed Vicario, saying: “Despite more than a third of the country’s population being dependent on humanitarian aid, organisations working in Mali already face severe access constraints. It’s imperative that the international community keeps responding to people’s urgent needs, and that any new sanctions have concrete humanitarian exemptions. These must be monitored and implemented, or the most vulnerable people in Mali will pay the price.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!