The Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament this morning rejected the new Frontex rules approved by member states earlier this year.

The new rules, which Malta had strongly objected to, were intended to introduce rules of engagement for anti-migration patrol missions coordinated by Frontex.

Malta had, in particular, opposed a new rule which provided that rescued migrants would be taken to the country hosting the Frontex mission, rather than the nearest port, as at present.

Malta had warned that approal of such rules would have meant it would no longer have hosted Frontex missions.

Following a heated debate, the majority of MEPs backed a resolution put forward by Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil, who is the EPP's coordinator for the Committee, to reject the rules and send them back to the Commission.

During the past few days MEPs were pressured by both the Commission and the Council to approve the new rules so that they could come into force before the start of the new Frontex patrols before summer. However Dr Busuttil insisted that the new rules were ‘ultra vires' and that the Commission had overstepped its remit in their drafting.

When the vote was taken, 23 MEPs voted to reject the rules and 13 approved. All the major political groups represented at the Civil Liberties Committee rejected the rules except the Socialists who decided to back Michael Cashman, a British Labour MEP who was acting as rapporteur on this dossier. Following the negative vote Mr Cashman said that he was stepping down from being rapporteur.

The Civil Liberties Committee's decision to reject the rules will now have to be also confirmed by the EP plenary next week. If this hurdle is also surpassed, as is now expected, the Commission will have to scrap the new Frontex rules and start afresh by making a formal legislative proposal.

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