New guidelines governing Frontex enforcement operations at sea will now take effect even though the European Parliament voted on 25 March to reject the guidelines by a vote of 336 to 253 with 30 abstentions. However, an absolute majority of all EP Members, 369 votes, was required in order to block the new guidelines.
Malta opposes the new guidelines. The Times of Malta reported that “the European Commission and Council have managed to get their way and will be able to introduce new rules of engagement during this year’s anti-migration patrol missions coordinated by Frontex as the resolution to reject these rules approved by the Civil Liberties Committee last week didn’t manage to garner the necessary support of the Socialist group in the EP.”
“According to the new rules, all irregular immigrants and asylum seekers saved on the high-seas during a Frontex mission have to be taken to the mission’s host country and not to the closer safe port. This means that if Malta hosts a Frontex mission in the future, as it has done in the past two years, it will have to take all the illegal immigrants found at sea. Malta has already declared that it will not continue to take part in Frontex missions under these rules.”
An EP press release stated that the “EU guidelines saythat border patrols have a moral duty to rescue migrants in distress at sea…. The guidelines cover ‘search and rescue situations and for disembarkation’ in the context of operations on the EU’s sea borders. They state that Member States fleets operating under FRONTEX must render assistance to persons in distress at sea, regardless of their nationality or status, or the circumstances in which that person is found…. Disembarkation procedures should be carried out in line with international law and existing bilateral agreements between Member States and third countries.”
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Click here for EP Press Release.