Norway to increase contribution to efforts in the Mediterranean

Norway will send a vessel to the Mediterranean, and will increase its contribution to Frontex. The Government has also indicated to the EU that it is prepared to provide additional support for efforts in the Mediterranean if needed. This was announced in Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s address to the Storting today.

‘We have all been moved by the pictures we have seen from the Mediterranean. Images of old boats, filled to the brim with people risking the dangerous sea crossing. We are moved as fellow human beings, but also as a maritime nation and a major humanitarian actor. Norwegian politicians therefore have a duty to respond,’ said Ms Solberg.

Today’s address to the Storting today dealt with the crises in Syria and Iraq and the situation in the Mediterranean. The whole address is currently only available in Norwegian. An English version will be published shortly.

‘The crisis in the Mediterranean is complex, and requires broad cooperation and coordination, particularly with the EU. It is due in part to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and a number of other conflict and emergency situations in the Middle East and Africa,’ said Ms Solberg.

Last year, the UN calculated that 40 % of those who set out on the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean were from Eritrea and Syria. So far this year, most have come from Gambia and Senegal, followed by Somalia, Syria and Mali. The pattern changes from year to year, and from month to month, but the trend is clear: more and more people are trying to get into Europe.

Norwegian vessel soon ready
The Government is strengthening the Norwegian efforts in the Mediterranean by sending a vessel to the Triton operation. The invitation to make an offer has been sent out, with a deadline of 4 May. The vessel must meet the specifications for taking part in border patrols and supporting search and rescue operations. It is to be a civilian vessel, but the crew will include personnel from the police and the armed forces, as well as a medical team. 

‘Europe has a joint responsibility, and Norway will do its part. We are already providing personnel for the Frontex operation in the Mediterranean. We are a major contributor to Frontex.

‘The Government will emphasise to the EU how important it is that Triton has the capacity, the mandate and the area of operation necessary to be able to save lives in the Mediterranean,’ said Ms Solberg.

Global security challenges
Most of the vessels that set off for Europe today leave from the Libyan coast. The current conflict and power vacuum in the country provides opportunities for criminal networks and human traffickers. As a result of the conflict, many migrant workers and other migrants are stranded in Libya, and can see no other option than to try to cross the Mediterranean.

‘This is why it is vital to work for a political solution to the conflict in Libya. Regional and external actors must work together to support moderate forces on both sides,’ said Ms Solberg.

Ms Solberg also referred to the huge sums of money that criminal networks make from trafficking. According to a UN report, human trafficking from Libya last year was a USD 170 million industry. Many of the same networks also smuggle drugs and arms.

‘The Government will present a white paper on global security challenges before the summer recess. This will highlight how organised crime is undermining states and financing terrorism and rebel groups,’ said Ms Solberg.