Roberta Metsola, the President of of the European Parliament, has warned against a return to "the situation in 2013, when the EU did not show solidarity and did not consider life as something very precious."
"For many years we forgot that those taking these boats [across the Mediterranean towards Italy] are people," European parliament speaker Roberta Metsola told Italian state broadcaster Rai 3 on Sunday (October 30).
Metsola also highlighted the tenth anniversary of the 2013 migrant shipwreck off Lampedusa, in which over 200 migrants died. "My call will be to avoid returning to the situation in 2013, when the EU did not show solidarity and did not consider life as something very precious," Metsola said.
Her comments came in response to a question on the latest directive issued by Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, which aims to keep NGO migrant rescue boats away from Italian ports.
Metsola also said that she will be discussing migration during a meeting on Thursday with Italy's new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni.
'Find an accord on migration laws'
On October 25, Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi issued a directive to the country's police and port authorities saying that the Ocean Viking and Humanity 1 NGO rescue ships currently conducting search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean was not "in line with the spirit of EU and Italian regulations as concerns security, border control, and the fight against illegal immigration."
Consequently, according to the directive, a ban on the entry of the vessels into Italian territorial waters was being assessed.
"We at the European Parliament have a package of laws on which we are tasked with reaching an agreement on before the 2024 elections. Citizens wants solutions to be found at the European level. It is true that southern Europe was disproportionately affected by irregular [migrant] flows," Metsola said.
She went on to underscore that we must neither forget "compliance with international law" nor "policies that are hard on traffickers of vulnerable people".
EU tells Italy to 'rescue migrants quickly'
On Friday, European Commission spokeswoman on home affairs, migration and internal security Anitta Hipper said that the European Commission (EC) is neither involved in nor responsible for coordinating the rescue of migrants at sea.
However, Hipper added that the EC urged states and all those involved in search and rescue operations to act swiftly and in line with relevant laws to ensure that people at sea are brought to land as quickly as possible.
The European Commission, she noted, had set up a contact group for search and rescue in 2021 with the aim of avoiding deadly incidents at sea, maintaining security at sea, and ensuring effective migration management in full compliance with international and EU law.
She stressed that privately owned vessels are now carrying out complex rescue operations even in the absence of a coordinated framework at the national or EU level.
Few voluntary relocations
Italy was the first country to begin voluntary relocations from its territory this year when 38 migrants were relocated to France and 74 to Germany in August and October this year, respectively.
The Italian government has said that this number is too low, however, given that the country has had to deal with over 82,000 migrant arrivals via sea in 2022 alone, and that the 112 relocated thus far via the EU-wide mechanism account for thus only 0.1% of those who have landed on Italian coasts.
Italy's new interior minister Piantedosi has said that migrants will be allowed to land on Italian coasts only after the countries under the flag of which the NGO rescue boats are sailing have agreed to take their share of migrants.
Germany and Norway have not yet responded to the diplomatic notes sent by the Italian foreign ministry to the two countries.