Estonia sends a plane to help with Mediterranean crisis
Estonian Police and Border Guard will send a plane to participate in patrolling and reconnaissance flights near Greek border.
The plane, a Czech-made L-410 and one of the two reconnaissance planes used by Estonia, will depart for Greece next week and is part of a united EU operation to catch people-smugglers on the European Union's southern border. The plane will be sent with a team of 12 and is expected to operate for a month. The same plane has participated in the Mediterranean operations before – last year it conducted reconnaissance flights near Italian border.
The European Council agreed on the measures to be taken against illegal migration problems in Brussels on Thursday, when the government heads agreed on common measures aimed at avoiding new victims on the Mediterranean Sea.
The most important measures include strengthening the EU presence on the Mediterranean Sea, fighting against human trafficking, and preventing illegal migration flows.
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, who participated in the meeting, said that Estonia supports the common measures and can contribute in the effort, using its experience in ensuring border security. According to the Estonian government, Estonia might deploy specially trained experts and send a high speed patrol boat, in addition to the reconnaissance plane.
At the EC meeting, it was also decided that 10,000 migrants will be allowed to settle in Europe, but it is up to each member state to accept the immigrants on a voluntary basis – although the EC asked for the correct implementation of the Common European Asylum System.
Estonia has so far been extremely strict in its refugee policy, granting asylum to just a few dozen people a year and according to NGO Estonian Refugee Council, the country has taken a firm stand against any solidarity mechanisms within the EU. Estonian Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said on Tuesday, commenting on the Mediterranean migration crisis, that rather than focusing on the asylum seekers, the most important task is to ensure peace in Libya and catch and prosecute the traffickers.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 1,750 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean since the start of the year - over 30 times more than during the same period in 2014. In the latest tragedy, up to 900 migrants went missing and are feared dead after a wooden fishing boat, on which they were hoping to reach the shores of Europe, capsized near Libya.
Estonian Police and Border Guard has two reconnaissance planes L-410, one Cessna, three helicopters Augusta Westland AW139 and one Enstrom 480B.