The Malta Times reports that “a Frontex official said [yesterday] the new [maritime interdiction] guidelines were specifically aimed at avoiding disputes such as the ones that broke out between Malta and Italy. In the past, immigrants were stuck on the high seas as the two countries were locked in a diplomatic wrangle on who was responsible for the people rescued. ‘Everyone recalls these incidents and the Commission’s intervention. Brussels ended up as a referee in these disputes and we don’t think that’s our role. This is specifically why we needed to have a specific code of conduct to guide future Frontex missions. This will put participating member states’ minds at rest,’ the official said.”
The proposed changes would require migrants to be taken to the country hosting the Frontex mission if it was not possible to return the migrants to their country of departure and could go into effect as early as April when Frontex interdiction patrols are scheduled to resume in the central Mediterranean under the new mission name of Operation Chronos.
“Both Malta and Italy objected strongly [to the proposed changes] on the basis of the fact that the guidelines go beyond international legal obligations, which say that migrants should be taken to the nearest safe port [which in Malta’s case] often meant the Italian island of Lampedusa.”
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