Saturday

8th May 2021

EU expands patrol mission around Lampedusa

  • Waiting for EU help - Tunisian youngsters in Lampedusa (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Frontex, the EU's border agency, has extended until the end of August its patrolling mission around the Italian island of Lampedusa and widened its area of operations, as the influx of Tunisian migrants continues to outpace the flights and naval transport to the Italian mainland.

"Due to the notable increase in migratory pressure on Italy and the island of Lampedusa in particular, Frontex has widened the operational area of Joint Operation Hermes and extended its duration for five more months, with the aim of strengthening Europe's border-control response capability in the central Mediterranean," the Warsaw-based EU agency said in a press statement.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Two additional planes from the Netherlands and Portugal will help the Italian coast guard with surveillance operations, in addition to the one plane already operating out of Pantelleria - a small island off the western coast of Sicily. According to coast guard officials in Lampedusa, the planes are too big to land on short runway in Lampedusa.

No Frontex personnel will be sent to the tiny island, however, and neither are extra funds disbursed to help the Italian authorities speed up the transfer of migrants to the mainland, a spokeswoman for the agency told this website.

The current budget for the mission stands at €2.6 million, including the funds reimbursing Italy for the transfer of migrants to reception centres in Sicily and southern Italy where any of the 20 Frontex experts are located. Italy could receive more financial aid under an "emergency funding" mechanism of €25 million for all member states, but the European Commission says it has not received any formal request yet.

For aid workers on the ground, the news makes little difference, as the tensions in the port are rising, with some 2,000 migrants sleeping rough and having no sanitary facilities.

"There are some tensions and the migrants who are arriving here are really disapppointed about what they find. The situation is unacceptable. They cannot shower, they have to sleep on the hills around the port," Tommaso dilla Longa, spokesman for the Red Cross in Lampedusa told this website.

"The only thing that would help right now would be if the airplanes and boats could take many more migrants from Lampedusa to the mainland. It is impossible to think this island can manage 5,000 migrants," he said, adding that almost one thousand migrants arrived on Thursday. An Italian warship, which transported 550 migrants on Wednesday, was set to take another 700-800 on Friday, while the planes only mange 60-70 a flight.

The local authorities on Thursday reassured the population - only 4,500 - that there will be enough fresh water after asking the supplier from Sicily to double the amounts brought by ferry to the tiny island, which has no source of fresh water.

Lampedusa is meanwhile not the only Italian destination for north African refugees.

According to the Italian 'Finance Guard', which operates rescue missions at sea, on Friday, a sailing boat was intercepted off the coast of Siracuse in south-eastern Sicily, with 44 people from Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Among them were 11 women, two of which are pregnant, and seven children.

Tunisian migrants spark protests on Italian island

With hundreds of Tunisian migrants arriving every day by boat, the inhabitants of the overcrowded island of Lampedusa over the weekend have staged daily protests in the port, calling on the Italian government to step up the pace of transfers to the mainland.

Tunisian migrant: EU treatment is 'shameful'

Tunisian migrants stuck in harsh conditions in Lampedusa feel let down by the EU compared to the effort made by ordinary Tunisians to help refugees fleeing violence in Libya.

Italian right calls for end to migrant rescue programme

Italian right-wing politicians have called for the country's programme to rescue North African refugees from the Mediterranean sea to be scrapped after figures suggested that 1,100 immigrants had been rescued in the past two days.

Exclusive

Hungary gags EU ministers on China

EU countries have shelved plans to issue a statement of moral support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong - due to Hungary's veto. Hungary is a major beneficiary of Chinese investment, including the building of a new university in Budapest.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Czech minister plotted to bury evidence on Russian attack
  2. Putin promotes Russia's 'Kalashnikov-like' vaccine
  3. Coronavirus: Indian variant clusters found across England
  4. UN report encourages EU methane cuts
  5. EU court upholds ban on bee-harming pesticides
  6. Israeli tourists welcomed back by EU
  7. EU duped into funding terrorist group, Israel says
  8. Brussels prepares portfolio of potential Covid-19 treatments

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  2. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  3. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit
  4. EU preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique
  5. EU now 'open' to vaccine waiver, after Biden U-turn
  6. EU mulls using new 'peace' fund to help Libyan coast guard
  7. Poland 'breaks EU law' over judges, EU court opinion says
  8. 11 EU states want to cut fossil-fuels from cross-border projects

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us