Thursday

29th Sep 2016

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”.

EU commission presents 'realistic' lobbying rules

The EU executive called for more stringent regulation of interest representatives trying to influence EU decision making. Critics say the 'transparency revolution' is being blocked by the European Parliament and EU member states.

New EU rules on financial products in limbo

A feud between MEPs and the EU commission is threatening to derail financial services regulation that would protect consumers from misleading investment products.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  3. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  4. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  5. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  6. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  7. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  8. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  9. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  10. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List
  11. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  12. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?