Migrant rescue operations cannot be operated under ‘wild, wild, West situation’: EU official
"Operations in the Mediterranean and elsewhere cannot operate under a wild, wild West situation, where everybody does anything and it’s OK," Margaritis Schinas said at a news conference in Brussels following an extraordinary meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council.
EU interior ministers discussed proposals to ease tensions between France and Italy concerning migrants arriving without authorization as hundreds have been stranded at sea aboard ships operated by NGOs.
Touching on the crisis related to an Ocean Viking ship, Schinas said the answer to the migration issue is "necessarily European" and the claim that "Europe is not able to provide solutions to the migration problem" is not true.
He noted that global challenges prompted the irregular migration reality and said there will always be migration challenges.
He welcomed the discussion between ministers Friday and announced that the bloc agreed to relaunch the European Contact Group on Search and Rescue.
"Thirteen hundred migrants died or went missing in the central Mediterranean this year alone and this cannot be acceptable," he said, referring to the need for robust cooperation in search and rescue efforts.
Migration does not necessarily have to be an issue that "toxifies" politics, said Schinas. "We need to bring some normality into the migration debate and we need to continue showing that Europe is part of the solution."
NGOs' rescue operations not taboo subject
Pointing out that rescue operations by NGOs is not a taboo subject, he said rather it should be discussed as it is directly related to the lives of people.
Schinas said there is a need for coordination and cooperation between member states and NGOs.
"Europe will always remain an asylum destination for those who flee war and persecution. that’s what defines us as Europeans that’s the European way of life," added the vice president, stressing the importance of having a European migration policy and fighting smugglers at the same time.
Asked to explain what he meant by "wild, wild West," he said rescue operations at sea are happening without any coordination and interaction, and added that Europe needs mutual commitments.