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Concerted efforts to manage migration in the Central Mediterranean

Weeks after the tragic drowning of over 300 persons around the Island of Lampedusa in October 2013, Italy launched a major search & rescue operation called 'Mare Nostrum', which is on-going close to the Libyan coast with Italian naval assets.  

The Mare Nostrum operation is on-going close to the Libyan coast with Italian naval assets. The EU has supported the operation financially with €1.8 million from the emergency actions under the External Borders Fund.

Assistance to Italy has also been provided through the two Frontex coordinated operations Hermes and Aeneas.

The joint operations Hermes coordinated by Frontex has, in one form or the other and with few interruptions, been going on for several years. Italy has acted as the sole host state.

This joint operation is on-going close to the Italian coast to control the EU external borders with a yearly budget for 2014 of around €5 million. In accordance with the host state's request, sea borne assets in the operation come from Italy (Coast Guard and/or Guardia di Finanza); other Member States contribute with one surveillance aircraft and guest officers on land to help with screening/debriefing.

Frontex also coordinated joint operation Aeneas with Italy as host state. This operation mainly focussed on migratory flows from Egypt and Turkey (via Greece) to Italy.

Stepping up operational responses

As from 1 November 2014, at the earliest, the Frontex coordinated joint operation 'Triton' will start its activity in the Central Mediterranean in support of the Italian efforts.

The details of Triton, including the operational area and the necessary assets, have been agreed between Frontex and Italy on the basis of the requests made by the Italian authorities.

Triton will rely on human and technical resources made available by the participating Member States. Frontex has launched a call to Member States for contributions including two fixed wing surveillance aircrafts, three patrol vessels, as well as seven teams of guest officers for debriefing/intelligence gathering and screening/identification purposes. In addition Italian assets will form part of the operation.

Its monthly budget is estimated at €2.9 million per month. In order to finance the launch and the first phase of the operation, funds have been reallocated from the Internal Security Fund and from within the Frontex budget. An increase of the Frontex 2015 budget has to be agreed by the European Parliament and the Council in order to finance the operation with the same intensity in the longer run.

As for all Frontex operation, Triton will be operating in full respect with international and EU obligations, including respect of fundamental rights and of the principle of non-refoulement which excludes push backs.

The role of Frontex is key to ensure effective border control in the Mediterranean region, and at the same time to provide assistance to persons or vessels in distress. Frontex is entrusted with assisting Member States in circumstances requiring increased technical assistance at the external borders, taking into account that some situations may involve humanitarian emergencies and rescue at sea. Although Frontex is neither a search and rescue body nor does it take up the functions of a Rescue Coordination Centre, it assists Member States to fulfil their obligation under international maritime law to render assistance to persons in distress.

Triton is intended to support the Italian efforts, and does not replace or substitute Italian obligations in monitoring and surveying the Schengen external borders and in guaranteeing full respect of EU and international obligations, in particular when it comes to search and rescue at sea.

It implies that Italy will have to continue making continued substantial efforts using national means, fully coordinated with the Frontex operation, to manage the situation.

All Member States could use for operating support, i.e. running costs of their border control operations, up to 40% of the available resources for their national programmes under the new Internal Security Fund (Borders & Visa component). In the case of Italy, taking into account that over €156 million is allocated to Italy, more than €62.5 million could be assigned to operating support under its national programme over the period of 2014-2020.

For more information

Statement by Commissioner Malmström on operation Triton STATEMENT/14/302

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