EU Mulls Mediterranean Coast Guard for Trafficking

By KAROLOS GROHMANN, REUTERS, ATHENS
The European Union is considering forming a joint Mediterranean coastguard to fight human trafficking and rising numbers of illegal migrants, the bloc’s Justice Commissioner said on March 10.
“My idea is that Europe should have a zero tolerance on trafficking, the idea is that of a European coast guard,” Franco Frattini told reporters during a visit to Athens.
“One step, and it is a possible step so far, is to have joint training for national coast guards. They will then participate jointly in operations.”
Thousands of illegal migrants, mostly from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, try to enter the European Union each year.
Many southern European countries, including Spain, Greece and Italy, have had cases of hundreds of migrants arriving a week at a time over the summer months. Many migrants have also died in accidents or in rough seas.
Malta counted 1,800 arrivals in 2005 and has been asking the EU for help for more than a year, saying it does not have the resources to cope.
Frattini said he was keen to crack down on trafficking, which has become a major criminal enterprise. At least 150,000 children alone are smuggled into the EU bloc each year.
A joint coast guard could also include expert teams such as interpreters and medics who could be dispatched in case of a major emergency, Frattini said.
“It will improve the capacities of rapid reaction of joint expert teams if there is an emergency,” he said.
 

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