EU rolls out new action plan to curb irregular migration via Central Mediterranean route
The plan consists of 20 measures under three main pillars aiming to boost cooperation with international organizations and partner countries, better coordinate between member countries on search and rescue efforts, and strengthen the implementation of the bloc's Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism.
Under the first pillar, the bloc seeks to cooperate more with Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya on strengthening their border management capabilities and to secure an agreement between Tripoli and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).
The second main heading was adopted in the hope that it would help prevent loss of life, as well as tensions that have emerged between EU member countries on the operation of migrant rescue ships.
The third pillar's aim is to streamline the working of the Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism so migrants have better access to assistance in the EU and fund alternative solidarity measures more quickly.
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced the plan at a press conference in Brussels ahead of an emergency meeting of EU interior ministers on Friday.
Noting that the nationalities of migrants attempting to use the central Mediterranean route to Europe had changed, Johansson said most were now from Egypt, Tunisia, and Bangladesh rather than sub-Saharan Africa.
Johansson also underlined the importance of cooperating with non-EU countries in the region and international organizations to curb the migration flow.
"This year already, more than 3,000 people have voluntarily returned from Libya to their country of origin. Since we started this work, together with the UN and African Union, more than 60,000 people have voluntarily returned from Libya," she said.
Furthermore, Johansson urged EU countries to make better use of the Voluntary Relocation System, which aims to allow the transfer of asylum seekers from southern countries, including Italy, Greece, and Spain to other states across the bloc.
She also underscored that the plan should be adopted and applied by all EU countries.
"We can do a lot of action plans and we will continue to do that and is important. But without the adoption of the whole pact, we would be much weaker than we would be with a whole comprehensive European framework for migration and asylum," Johansson said.