MOSCOW (Sputnik) – A copy of the document was obtained by the Guardian on Thursday, ahead of an emergency EU meeting on immigration. It revealed that the majority of those who survived the perilous journey across the Mediterranean will be sent back under a rapid-return plan.
Around 150,000 irregular immigrants, primarily from North Africa and the Middle East, were saved from the sea last year, while some 3,500 drowned, the United Nations estimates. Most of the refugees went ashore in Italy, prompting it to ask for EU assistance in resettling them.
The draft agreement also indicates that the EU maritime border patrol agency, Frontex, is unlikely to expand its search-and-rescue operations as demanded by the UN refugee agency. Last year, it launched Operation Triton to patrol within 30 miles of the Italian coast, replacing Italy's own Mare Nostrum where more emphasis was put on saving lives.
Instead, Frontex will take steps to prevent people dying at sea by destroying vessels used by human traffickers to smuggle them into Europe. EU leaders will also encourage North African states to patrol their own borders, to stop refugees from making the dangerous crossing.
The draft is expected to be discussed in detail at the upcoming extraordinary summit of EU heads, announced on Monday by European Council President Donald Tusk.
It comes in the wake of a deadly shipwreck in the Mediterranean in which hundreds of people presumably died after a boat capsized off the Libyan shore. Only 28 people were rescued.