Europe keeps watching in silence the migration process that is moving thousands of desperate people from Africa to the Old Continent. Some are running away from war or dictatorships, others are leaving their country for economic reasons, others are trying to rejoin family members who preceded them in time.
A flow that has been going on for some time now and that directly involves Italy, the southern border of Europe, which first took on the “Mare Nostrum” operation and now is still on the frontline despite the help of military ships from Great Britain, Germany, Iceland, France, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania and Malta that are authorized to go in the Libyan waters according to Triton, the new operation wanted by the EU.
About 17 ships sailing under different flags that are actually projecting over Lybia their national sovereignty, in order to embark refugees adrift in the Mediterranean and then land them in Italian ports, delegating to Italy the management of hospitality according to an extreme interpretation of the provisions of the European Convention – “Dublin III”.
A treaty that is considered a “milestone” of the Common European Asylum System and which refers to general principles similar to those of the old Dublin Convention of 1990 and to Dublin II. In particular, every asylum application must be examined by a single Member State and the responsibility for examining an application for international protection lies primarily with the nation that has played a major role in relation to the entry and residence of the applicant territory of the Member States, subject to exceptions (COM 2008/820, 03.12.2008, p. 3).
Given these principles, Italy, the “European outpost of call for migrants”, must manage the reception, start the procedure for recognition, for the potential return, performing difficult tasks assigned to it by Europe with an interpretation of Dublin that should be reviewed in the light of the contingent reality of Triton. Italy so far has been left largely alone to face this problem, a slap to the concept of European Union.
But all this could change. A great number of refugees in fact arrive in Italy after being passed on the deck of military ships of other states, that according to the international and maritime law are in effect part of the nation to which they belong and are, in this case, real itinerant “reception centers” that have nothing to do with the Italian sovereign territory.
Warships that keep their full national identity and immunity (sovereign immunity) on the high seas during the transit in territorial waters or the stay in the internal ones of another State with exemption from detention, inspection, taxes and application of foreign laws. In short a complete immunity from the jurisdiction of any State other than their one (Unclos 95 and 96), ships that so are also exempted from exposing the “Flag courtesy” once docked at a port of a host nation.
Naval forces that navigating perform an exclusive and polyvalent role, de facto exercising Law, Force and Diplomacy, as a total expression of their country of origin, both territorially and legally. Real “pieces” of the country projected sea that as such should be subject to the rules and conventions ratified by the EU Member States, most notably the Dublin III.
Having said that, it is not clear, then, why the military ships of other European nations which contributes to the Triton do not apply “Dublin” once they have boarded the refugees rescued at sea. The Convention, in fact, clearly stipulates the obligation of the reception management linked to territorial sovereignty include also the areas of airport transit where Article 15 Dublin III provides for “the will to ask for international protection is manifested” (rather than ” when the asylum application is filed “) in the international transit area of an airport of a Member State.
The ships involved in Triton are mostly military ones, and thus to all effects they are the expression of the national territory of belonging. It is not clear, then, why Italy cannot hijack in Germany or France migrants landed in Sicily, while a French naval vessel or a German one can “unload” on the Italian territory migrants embarked on their naval vessels “performing the dominant role in relation to the entry and stay of an applicant in the territory of the Member States”. Portion of European territory or in respect of the Dublin agreements, should be obliged to provide international protection to those entitled, and at the same time to proceed with the repatriation of “migrated economic” and illegal immigrants.
Perhaps the EU and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini should expect a more careful application of the European Treaties and the national media to give more prominence to these inconsistencies. For a sense of justice, but also to avoid being mocked.