Saturday

24th Jun 2017

EU mission to help Italy save boat migrants

  • Italy's Mare Nostrum operation was launched last year (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU is to launch a “Frontex plus” mission in autumn to help Italy on the search and rescue of Mediterranean boat migrants.

Home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom announced the move after a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (27 August) with Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The UN estimates that nearly 2,000 migrants have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean sea. (Photo: Orazio Esposito)

Referring to the EU’s border-control agency, Frontex, in Warsaw, she said: “Two ongoing Frontex operations, Hermes and Aeneas, will be merged and extended into a new upgraded operation. The aim is to put in place an enlarged 'Frontex plus' to complement what Italy has been doing."

“This operation should in principle succeed the Hermes operation and we hope that it can be in place by the end of November.”

The commission hopes Frontex plus will ultimately replace the Italian government’s sea rescue operation, known as Mare Nostrum, launched last autumn.

The move comes after repeated requests from the Italian government for more help in coping with the thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

More than 300 were killed trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in the past week, bringing the death toll to almost 1,900 this year.

“It has been clear that this is not an effort that Italy can carry out all alone,” Malmstrom noted, adding that “Frontex will need more money”.

Finding the resources to fund EU border control has proved difficult, however.

Frontex’s budget was in fact cut from €93.9 million to €89.1 million in 2014 and governments are still battling over its 2015 allowance.

“We will ask for other member states to contribute. The more they do so in terms of ships and helicopters, the larger the extension of the Frontex Plus operation will be,” Italy’s Alfano said.

Italy, along with fellow Mediterranean countries Malta, Spain, Cyprus and Greece, has long sought more support from fellow EU countries.

More than 100,000 migrants arrived in Italy so far this year, compared to 42,000 arrivals in the whole of 2013.

But other EU countries have been reluctant to stump up extra money or move towards a more harmonised system for handling asylum applications.

For his part, Gianni Pitella, the leader of the European Parliament’s centre-left Socialist and Democrat group, also called on EU countries to “take action and share responsibility” in a statement on Wednesday.

“Asylum seekers must not have to risk their lives at sea in order to exercise a fundamental right. We need to defend the right to seek asylum and protect people in need”.

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. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit