Sunday

23rd Feb 2020

EU rescue mission yet to receive extra cash or boats

  • Triton's budget is set to triple (Photo: Frontex)

Plans for more money and boats to expand the EU’s surveillance mission Triton in the Mediterranean have yet to be realised as migrants continue to attempt to make the perilous sea journey.

EU leaders late last month announced plans at an emergency summit to “rapidly reinforce” Triton and its smaller Poseidon mission after around 1,700 people drowned.

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The proposal includes tripling Triton’s monthly budget to some €9 million per month so that it can lease extra military vessels and other assets pledged by member states.

The money will be siphoned from the EU budget but is currently mired in technocratic procedures.

“The commission is hoping to present an amending budget to the European Parliament and the Council by mid-May to get it adopted swiftly thereafter," EU commission spokesperson for migration Natasha Bertaud told reporters in Brussels on Monday (4 May).

The statement follows dramatic rescue efforts led by the Italian coastguard over the weekend that saved thousands at sea. Initial figures of 5,800 have now been revised to 6,771 survivors, reports the Associated Press.

The Triton mission is currently not mandated to carry out search and rescue operations but can help when it comes across a boat in distress.

Flying under the EU mission flag, the French vessel, Commandant Birot, participated in the weekend rescue mission and plucked 217 migrants from three boats.

The EU-led mission is technically limited to a 30 nautical mile range along the Italian coast although discussions on expanding its operational scope are taking place between the EU’s border agency, Frontex, which coordinates the sea missions, and Italy, Greece, and Malta.

Bertaud said Frontex and Italy are meeting on Thursday “so we would expect for the operational plan to be finalised between them shortly thereafter.”

She also dismissed any notion that the EU could imitate Australia’s asylum mission, which includes offshoring people to nearby islands to process their asylum requests.

“The Australian model can never be a model for us,” said Bertaud.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the EU’s foreign policy branch EEAS will present member states with an ideas paper on controversial plans to crack down on smugglers. The plan includes destroying boats used by traffickers to send people across the Mediterranean.

An EU official said foreign ministers are then set to meet on 18 May to discuss the paper.

Ministers will also be looking at expanding the EU's military operation in Niger to also "cover border control and other efforts to stem illegal migration" noted a contact.

The mission has a staff of around 100 people from 11 member states. First launched in 2012, it is set to end next July.

Thousands of migrants rescued in Mediterranean

Thousands of people in rickety boats and rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean were rescued over the weekend in one of the largest life-saving operations to date led by Italy’s coastguard.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

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