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Parliamentary questions
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24 January 2017
P-000353-17
Question for written answer P-000353-17
to the Commission
Rule 130
Jussi Halla-aho (ECR)

 Subject:  Penalties for NGO operations to rescue irregular immigrants at sea
 Answer in writing 

Between January and December 2016, a total of 173 000 irregular immigrants reached Italy by sea, more than in the whole of 2015. The EU sea rescue operation, Triton, is considered to be acting as a powerful magnet for those attempting to migrate illegally from Libya to Italy. Irregular immigrants who have come by the central Mediterranean route are for the most part economic migrants, who are not entitled to international protection. This latter category of migrants includes Nigerians, Ivorians, Senegalese, Malians, Guineans, and Gambians.

In October last year 40% of all operations in the central Mediterranean to rescue irregular immigrants at sea were carried out by NGOs. Frontex experts say that NGO sea rescue operations take place quite close to the Libyan coast, thus tempting immigrants to set out on the perilous crossing. NGO personnel have also guided immigrants’ boats by means of light signals. Frontex has, in addition, put forward serious accusations to the effect that NGO personnel make it impossible to gather evidence about people smugglers and that they encourage immigrants to refuse to cooperate with Italian and EU authorities. In one case irregular immigrants were even brought directly from North Africa to Italy by a vessel owned by an NGO.

According to a recent report by the Austrian military intelligence service, the EU will face a wave of 15 million economic migrants from Africa within the next few years if irregular immigration to Europe is not brought under control. In order to stop irregular immigration, sea rescue operations by NGOs, given that they are fuelling migration, should be made punishable by law. Denying licences to NGOs which take part in operations to rescue irregular migrants at sea might be one way to penalise such organisations.

Will the Commission, in cooperation with Member States, take steps to ensure that penalties are imposed for NGO sea rescue operations to pick up irregular immigrants?

Original language of question: FI 
Legal notice