Europe squabbles over tackling Mediterranean migrant crisis – CNN

(CNN)On October 31, 2014, the Italian government announced the end of “Mare Nostrum” — a naval mission that rescued would-be migrants in peril as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to seek security and a new life in Europe.

In the operation’s year-long existence, the Italian Navy and Coastguard had rescued an estimated 100,000 people. But it proved expensive and politically contentious, and Europe was not prepared to help Italy shoulder the burden of the crisis.

Without European support, the Italian government cut back the naval assets dedicated to rescuing migrants. Mare Nostrum, which had been launched after some 600 people died when two migrant ships sank in 2013, was replaced by the more modest “Operation Triton,” under the auspices of the European Union’s border agency, Frontex.

Triton has about one-third of the funding of Mare Nostrum, with just six ships and patrol boats, two planes and one helicopter. It was designed as a policing rather than a humanitarian mission. At its inception, Klaus Rosler, operations director for Frontex, said “Triton is not a replacement for Mare Nostrum.” Nor was Frontex “a coordinating body for search and rescue operations.”

Six months later, the argument about how to handle unprecedented numbers of desperate people heading for Europe continues unabated.

Contributors to Triton include Portugal, the Netherlands, Finland and Iceland. Britain — for example — is not. It argues that search and rescue operations in international waters are “an unintended ‘pull factor,’ encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths.”

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