Monday

19th Nov 2018

Lampedusa: EU commission keen to upgrade border agency

  • Malmstrom in Luxembourg: 'I planted the idea today' (Photo: cosilium.europa.eu)

The European Commission is pushing EU countries to vastly increase the resources of Frontex, its Warsaw-based border control agency, in reaction to the Lampedusa deaths.

The commissioner in charge, Sweden's Cecilia Malmstrom, told press in Luxembourg it is too early to say how much more money or how many new boats, planes, helicopters or satellite images she will ask for.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But she said EU home affairs ministers at a meeting on Tuesday (8 October) voiced support.

"I just planted the idea today," she said.

"All member states who expressed themselves said Frontex could do more … This is an occasion where the whole of Europe has expressed its solidarity," she added.

The idea, in Malmstrom's words, is to create a Frontex search and rescue operation that will cover the entire Mediterranean Sea, "from Spain to Cyprus."

The commission has been talking about expanding Frontex for at least three years.

Migrants have also been dying in attempts to cross the Mediterranean for years.

According to the UN, 500 people lost their lives or were reported missing in 2012 and 1,500 in 2011. Some 20,000 have been lost over the past two decades.

Malmstrom noted that so long as there are "dictators, natural disasters and poverty" they will keep coming.

She added that on top of Frontex surveillance, the EU joint police agency, Europol, needs to help dismantle human trafficking gangs in countries such as Libya and Tunisia and the EU needs to create "safer … legal ways" for refugees to enter the Union.

She said Europol will have a hard time in post-war Libya due to its "weak institutions."

She also defended Frontex' track record, saying it "saves lives every day with the means that it has" - a budget of €86 million a year, 315 staff, four boats, two helicopters and two planes.

Back on Lampedusa, she noted that ministers in Luxembourg did not discuss the fact survivors of the wreck are criminals under Italian law and liable to fines.

For his part, Italy's interior minister Angelino Alfano instead told press the Lampedusa incident should lead to more EU help for Italian authorities.

"We are in the middle of the Mediterranean and we have saved thousands and thousands of lives, we now ask for some help from Europe,” he said.

"The Mediterranean represents the Africa-Europe border, not the Africa-Italy border," he added.

But German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich noted that despite Italy's sensitive location: "Germany is the country that takes in the most refugees in Europe."

According to EU statistics, Germany granted asylum to 22,165 people last year.

Likewise, France, Sweden and the UK each took in several thousand more people than Italy (9,275).

Meanwhile, a group of NGOs - FIDH, Migreurop, AEDH, EMHRN - have raised concerns that Malmstrom's focus on Frontex is "more of the same."

They said in a letter to EU ministers that the agency, led by a former Finnish soldier, should alter its mandate, which prioritises stopping "illegal migration," to say more on humanitarian assistance.

They also said EU countries must draft rules obliging their own navies and commercial mariners to rescue boats in distress.

Amid Alfano's remark on savings "thousands of lives," the Council of Europe in a Strasbourg in a report in 2011 accused Italy of letting more than 60 migrants die of exposure despite their repeated appeals for help to passing helicopters, airplanes, naval vessels and fishing boats.

Investigation

Private firms put price tag on migrant suicides

Private security companies operating UK-based immigrant removal centres use formulas to calculate the profit loss incurred when detainees commit suicide under their watch.

MEPs approve EU border surveillance system

MEPs Thursday gave the green light to a new European Border Surveillance system. Critics says the deal places too much emphasis on stopping migration rather than saving lives.

Opinion

The Mediterranean Sea: A migration border

Economic, social and political instability in neighbouring countries creates migration, but are more border controls the best response?

News in Brief

  1. Germany and France agree eurozone budget framework
  2. Austrian foreign minister: EU's Israel policy 'too strict'
  3. Soros and Kurz discuss Central European University move
  4. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  5. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  6. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  7. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  8. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  2. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine
  3. EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation
  4. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  5. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  6. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  7. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  8. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us