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New migrants rescued in the Mediterranean. A tilting effect from East to Center?

(B2) The 'Frankfurt am Main', the support ship for the European military operation in the Mediterranean Sea (EUNAVFOR MED / Sophia) took charge this Tuesday (March 29) of 105 people from an inflatable boat in distress about 50 kilometers north of Tripoli (Libya ), including 51 women and two children. The boat which contained them was destroyed, considered " as an obstacle to navigation ". The survivors were then transferred to the Italian frigate “Grecale”, which is participating in the Italian operation. Safe Sea. Since May 7, 2015, German ships have thus participated in the management of “ of 12.613 people in distress » specifies the general staff of the German navy.

At the same time, other migrants were taken care of by the Libyan coast guard and the Italian navy. Since Monday, around 3000 people have been rescued. And on Sunday, 129 migrants were rescued by the British oceanographic vessel Enterprise.

A reopened road

This corresponds, overall, to what I observed when I was on board the Cavour in mid-March: the Libyan route is reopened, with arrivals of around 800-900 people on average per day. Seeing this as a consequence of the closure of the eastern route (via Turkey and Greece) – as some observers seated in their armchair with ruler and compass see it – is a hypothesis. But, in fact, it is above all the favorable weather, calm seas, which allow Libyan and Egyptian traffickers to resume their “business”.

Empty stocks

In a way, they are “selling out” the stocks of candidates for exile before a new campaign, as any trader would do before a new season. Except that this is not about goods. But of men, women and children. A way for them to promote their traffic to interested people. A bit like travel agencies promoting their vacation catalog in spring, it is about attracting new fans upon arrival in Europe.

Alternate routes within each major route

The idea of ​​switching from one route to another (from the eastern route to the central route) is often mentioned. It has a logic, seen from Europe. But it is not systematic. And those who encounter these migratory flows on a day-to-day basis, and whom I have consulted, remain very cautious. There are certainly see-saw effects between the western route (via Morocco and Spain, a route which is now closed) and the central route (via Libya and Italy), which both draw their human resources from Africa for a good part. There are certainly switching routes within the eastern route between Turkey and Greece: either via Bulgaria (now closed) or via the Balkans. Instead of the Belgrade Zagreb highway, one can go through Bosnia-Herzegovina, or Albania and then overland and the Adriatic.

A seesaw effect from East to West?

Imagining a switch from the eastern route (via Turkey) to the central route (via Libya) seems a little more complicated today. On the one hand, the trafficking networks are not systematically the same (even if there may very well be “joint ventures”). On the other hand, to arrive in Libya, coming from the East, unless you arrive by sea, in cargo ships or ferries (which is not always easy), you must today take a land route. Which requires going 1) either through Syria (at war), 2) or through Lebanon or Jordan, then Israel, and then to Egypt. However, most of these countries (Jordan and Egypt) have more or less consolidated their borders. Passages, via the Sea from Lebanon or Egypt to Libya, remain more realistic, however.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).