Foreign Minister Steinmeier has called for a comprehensive European approach to ensure that no more refugees drown in the Mediterranean. Such an approach must include European solidarity in taking in refugees and cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Germany is also participating in the rescue operations in the Mediterranean as part of the EU Naval Forces mission (EUNAVFOR Med). On Wednesday (16 September) the Cabinet asked for a Bundestag mandate for the second phase of EUNAVFOR Med which will target human trafficking.
The Mediterranean must not become a mass grave for refugees
“Europe cannot permit the Mediterranean to become a mass grave for refugees,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed in early September. However, the refugee crisis can only be solved by a comprehensive approach at European level. In addition to sea rescue operations and combating human traffickers, this must also include, first and foremost, enhanced cooperation with countries of origin and transit, as well as greater European solidarity with regard to taking in refugees.
EUNAVFOR Med is part of this overall concept. The operational plan was approved by the Council of the European Union in June 2015. The aim is to rescue shipwrecked refugees from the Mediterranean and to put an end to the criminal activities of human traffickers. In the first phase, its mission also included surveillance and reconnaissance on the high seas.
More than 7200 shipwrecked refugees have been saved
Two German Bundeswehr ships have been involved in the operation. So far they have rescued more than 7200 shipwrecked refugees. These included a very pregnant Somali, whose daughter Sophia was the first child ever born on a Bundeswehr boat. She was safely delivered on 25 August.
On 16 September the Cabinet decided that Germany should participate in the second phase which will directly target human traffickers and the boats they use. The protection of refugees will remain the key priority. Arrested traffickers and smugglers will be handed over to the responsible law enforcement agencies. As in the anti‑piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, deterrence is also a key aim. The idea is to deter traffickers from sending refugees on the dangerous route across the Mediterranean.
Tackling the root causes in Libya
Foreign Minister Steinmeier stated on Wednesday (16 September) that, to solve the refugee crisis, even more must be done to address the factors causing people to flee their homes. “The most common cause for flight is an unsolved conflict in our neighbourhood.” He reported that, having regard to the Mediterranean route, the focus here was on Libya. He further said that Germany was working together with UN Special Envoy Léon to rebuild state structures and to facilitate the formation of a national unity government. Steinmeier expressed cautious optimism. “There is hope, although it will still be complicated enough to get there. But I am firmly convinced that if it succeeds, the number of refugees routed through Libya will diminish.”