As we all know, we are confronted with a dire reality in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, it is neither a new phenomenon nor one that will go away anytime soon. It is the new reality in the Mediterranean.
That is why the Commission set migration as one of its top priorities. The adoption of the European Agenda on Migration will take place on May 13, weeks earlier than originally planned.
But the events overtook us. So, we will need to take direct, practical and substantial measures. If we do not act now, the crisis will take dangerous proportions in the months to come.
Today's meeting, with the participation of both the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs, illustrates our sense of urgency and our willingness to take action together. We cannot and we will not stand idle to these ongoing tragedies.
We have to take action now. All of us. Together. Both the Member States and the EU institutions. Such action requires our collective responsibility as a Union, as well as direct responsibility at national level.
That is why we have agreed to implement a ten point plan, which will be the foundation of the upcoming European Agenda on Migration:
1. Reinforce the Joint Operations in the Mediterranean, namely Triton and Poseidon, by increasing the financial resources and the number of assets. We will also extend their operational area, allowing us to intervene further, within the mandate of Frontex.
2. Implement systematic efforts to capture and destroy vessels used by smugglers. The positive results obtained by the so-called 'Atalanta operation' should inspire us for new operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean.
3. EUROPOL, FRONTEX, EASO and EUROJUST should meet regularly and work closely together to exchange information on the modus operandi of smugglers, trace their funds, and assist in their investigation. The JOT operation MARE is a good example of how we can organize ourselves at Union level to become more effective in identifying and fighting back these criminal organisations.
4. EASO to deploy teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications. Our aim should be that cases are processed within two months from their lodging.
5. Member States will ensure fingerprinting of all migrants; all persons arriving must be screened and recorded in an effective manner.
6. Consider options for an emergency relocation mechanism.
7. An EU wide pilot project on resettlement on a voluntary basis, offering a number of places to persons in need of protection. We need to reach out to those who genuinely need protection.
8. Establish a new return programme for rapid return of irregular migrants coordinated by Frontex from frontline Member States. This means more return flights, as well as an effort to inform migrants in transit countries and offer them Assisted Voluntary Return packages to prevent hazardous journeys.
9. Engage with countries surrounding Libya through a joined effort between the Commission and the EEAS. We need to better engage and to develop partnerships with these third countries. For example, initiatives in Niger have to be stepped up.
10. Deploy Immigration Liaison Officers (ILO) in key third countries to gather intelligence on migratory flows and strengthen the role of EU Delegations.
All these actions require our common effort, as a true Union and responsibility at national level. I sincerely hope that we are now ready to make this effort.