Germany to accept migrant survivors
Ivan Camilleri in Brussels
Times of Malta
June 29, 2007
In an unprecedented move, Germany is to assume responsibility for illegal migrant survivors picked up by its two helicopters during the Nautilus II mission in the central Mediterranean.
The announcement was made by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble in reply to a question by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil during a meeting of the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels.
The minister was speaking about the German Presidency's achievements in the areas of justice and home affairs. Referring to the anti-immigration patrols being coordinated by Frontex in the straits between Libya, Malta and Sicily, he said the German government was taking part with two helicopters.
During the debate, Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil asked the minister to explain who is going to be responsible for illegal immigrants saved during the mission in international or third country waters.
It did not make sense for Malta to be responsible for all these immigrants as the island's capacity was already stretched, he argued. “There is no doubt that we are all responsible for saving lives,” Dr Busuttil said. “But we are also jointly responsible for accepting the immigrants after we save them. Is Malta going to be left alone to act as a buffer for the influx of immigrants?”
The German Interior Minister replied that Germany was going to make an unprecedented move in European solidarity in order to help Malta. “I can announce that the German government has decided to start taking responsibility for all the lives saved by its helicopters during the Nautilus II mission. In order to help Malta, we will be flying all the immigrants we pick up in international waters or in third countries who do not collaborate, directly to Germany.”
Dr Busuttil told The Times afterwards that he was very satisfied with the German commitment as this was the first time a country forming part of the Frontex mission has adopted this position. He said the German example should prompt other EU member states to show solidarity in concrete terms.
Sources close to the Nautilus II mission said the announcement was very well received although they added that “there are serious limitations to how many immigrants a helicopter can save”.
During the meeting, Dr Busuttil emphasised the need for member states to move from rhetoric to action over the immigration problem on the southern borders.
He said that although the Nautilus II mission was a step in the right direction, vessels and other equipment provided by the other member states were conspicuous by their absence.
Nautilus II started last Monday with the participation of Malta, Germany, France, Greece, Spain and Italy. However, the lack of naval support means the mission is still ineffective.
Italy, a country directly interested in the problem, is only taking part with a token presence through a surveillance aircraft.