The head of the EU’s Frontex border agency on Monday welcomed an accord among the bloc’s 28 members aimed at curbing migrant arrivals, saying it signalled “the end of a certain naivety” on handling the influx.
European leaders reached a deal in Brussels on Friday to consider setting up asylum processing centres outside the bloc, most likely in North Africa, in a bid to discourage migrants and refugees boarding EU-bound smuggler boats.
The agreement shows “a shift toward European firmness and the end of certain naivety with regards to managing migrants” as well as “the exploitation of human distress by criminal gangs,” Fabrice Leggeri, the French head of Frontex, told CNews television.
“For quite a long time we’ve seen mainly the humanitarian aspects,” he said, but not “the fact that there are criminal groups getting rich, who exploit this human misery and in a way take Europe morally hostage,” he said.
Several EU leaders have accused NGO ships of indirectly aiding human traffickers, saying they should let the Libyan coastguard coordinate rescue missions and take the migrants back to Libya.
European nations do not have “a unilateral obligation” to rescue migrants at sea, Leggeri said, even though authorities must respect the principle of not forcing migrants to return to countries where they may be in danger.
“If Frontex ships or private vessels are called by the processing centres, they could drop off rescued people at the closest port,” he said, “and those could be non-European ports”.
“It sends a strong message to criminals” offering to get migrants to Europe, Leggeri said. – AFP