Ohisalo: “We cannot allow anyone to drown in the Mediterranean Sea”

EU Interior Ministers are meeting in Helsinki to try and find common ground on how to handle migrants who risk their lives on a Mediterranean crossing.

File picture of Finlandia Hall meeting room ahead of EU Interior Ministers meeting, 18th July 2019 / Credit: EU2019FI Twitter

Finland’s Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) has issued a stark warning as she meets her EU counterparts in Helsinki to discuss the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Thousands of people have drowned making the crossing from North Africa to Europe in recent years, and Ohisalo described the situation as “critical” as she arrived at Finlandia Hall on Thursday morning.

“We will look at ways of taking EU migration policy forward. In the Mediterranean, we have to find solutions that are more robust and not ad hoc” Ohisalo told journalists.

“The situation needs our attention and we should act together […] we cannot allow anyone to drown in the Mediterranean Sea any more” she said.

The minister said some of the key solutions would be more cooperation between police and border agencies, as well as hammering out a unified returns policy.

There’s division between EU countries about how to deal with the latest arrivals across the Mediterranean and it won’t be easy for the Finnish Presidency to get all countries to agree on a common policy.

Finland’s new government has promised a more compassionate stance on immigration, and recently agreed to take in eight people who were rescued at sea.

In contrast, the main coalition partner in the Italian government is a far-right group which has been accused of increasing anti-immigrant sentiment in the country and has also taken steps to try and limit humanitarian rescue work in the Mediterranean, including arrested the German captain of a ship that rescued migrants at sea, and brought them to an Italian port.

“We have to find solutions that are more robust, arrangements that are not ad hoc as they are right now. The situation needs our attention all the time and we should act there together” says Ohisalo.