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Central Mediterranean Route: Commission proposes Action Plan to support Italy, reduce pressure and increase solidarity

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Strasbourg, 4 July 2017

With the situation becoming ever more pressing along the Central Mediterranean Route, the Commission is today setting out a series of immediate measures that can be taken by the EU Member States, the Commission and EU Agencies, and Italy itself.

Building on the work of the past two years to save lives at sea and manage the increasing numbers of arrivals along the Central Mediterranean Route, all actors now need to intensify and accelerate their efforts in line with the increasing urgency of the situation and the commitments undertaken by EU leaders. Today's measures should form the basis of discussions at the informal Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Tallinn on Thursday.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "The dire situation in the Mediterranean is neither a new nor a passing reality. We have made enormous progress over the past two and half years towards a genuine EU migration policy but the urgency of the situation now requires us to seriously accelerate our collective work and not leave Italy on its own. The focus of our efforts has to be on solidarity – with those fleeing war and persecution and with our Member States under the most pressure. At the same time, we need to act, in support of Libya, to fight smugglers and enhance border control to reduce the number of people taking hazardous journeys to Europe."

Actions to support Italy and reduce flows

The European Commission proposes a set of measures to be taken now to accelerate the European Union's collective work along the Central Mediterranean Route, including notably that:

The Commission will:

  • Further enhance the capacity of the Libyan authorities through a €46 million project prepared jointly with Italy;
  • Support the establishment of a fully operational Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre in Libya;
  • Step up funding for migration management in Italy, with an additional €35 million ready to be mobilised immediately;
  • Ensure a full mobilisation of EU Agencies:
    • the European Asylum and Support Office (EASO) is ready to increase the number of mobile teams supporting processing of applications;
    • the European Border and Coast Guard Agency should urgently examine Italy's proposals regarding Joint Operation Triton;
    • and the European Border and Coast Guard's rapid reaction pool of over 500 return experts is ready to be deployed at Italy's request;
  • Launch and finance a new resettlement pledging exercise, notably from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Ethiopia and Sudan in conjunction with the UNHCR starting today;
  • Work with Libya to strengthen controls at the southern border, in cooperation with G5 Sahel countries and Member States with the backing of EU financial support;
  • Step up work to secure readmission agreements (or equivalent informal arrangements) with countries of origin and transit, with the support of Member States;
  • Engage further with Niger and Mali under the Partnership Framework to prevent movements towards Libya;
  • Continue to work with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to accelerate Assisted Voluntary Returns from Libya and Niger to countries of origin, including by providing additional funding;
  • Ensure with Member States a full implementation of the Partnership Framework, including beyond the original 5 priority countries, using both positive and negative leverages;
  • Further to the €200 million mobilised in 2017 for the North Africa window of the EU-Africa Trust Fund, ensure equivalent funding for 2018 and beyond from the EU budget and Member States (see table);

Member States should:

  • Contribute much more substantially to the EU-Africa Trust Fund, to complement the €2.6 billion contribution from the EU's limited budget, in line with their commitments dating back to November 2015 (see table);
  • Accelerate relocation from Italy by responding more quickly to Italian requests, increasing pledges and pledging more regularly;
  • Help engage with Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria, alongside the Commission and the European External Action Service, to encourage them to join the Seahorse Mediterranean Network, and call on Tunisia, Libya and Egypt to declare their search and rescue areas and establish a formal Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre;
  • Accelerate discussions, in conjunction with the European Parliament, on the reform of the Dublin system for allocating asylum applications within the EU to provide a more stable framework for tackling these challenges in the future;
  • Mobilise their capabilities, alongside those of the European Border and Coast Guard, to support the return of irregular migrants from Italy;

Italy should:

  • Draft, in consultation with the Commission and on the basis of a dialogue with NGOs, a Code of Conduct for NGOs carrying out search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean;
  • Fulfil its own commitments on relocation by:
    • registering, as a matter of urgency, all Eritreans present in Italy;
    • centralising and standardising the relocation procedure;
    • enabling the relocation of unaccompanied minors;
    • and showing greater flexibility on security checks arranged bilaterally with other Member States;
  • Implement rapidly the Minniti law, including by:
    • creating additional hotspot capacity;
    • increasing reception capacity and substantially increasing detention capacity to reach at least 3,000 urgently;
    • increasing the maximum period of detention in line with EU law;
    • and significantly speeding up the examination of asylum applications at the appeal stage;
  • Step up returns by:
    • applying expedited return procedures;
    • making wider use of the rapid procedures and inadmissibility grounds;
    • developing a national list of safe countries of origin;
    • issuing return decisions alongside and together with asylum decisions;
    • considering the use of residence restrictions;
    • and refraining from providing travel documents to asylum seekers.

See the full Commission Action Plan here.

Next steps

The Commission is working in concert with the Estonian presidency of the Council and the measures presented today should form the basis of discussions on immediate support for Italy that will take place at the informal Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Tallinn on Thursday.