Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has announced increased assistance to Italy in response to the recent rise in irregular migrant arrivals on the island of Lampedusa. The agency will double the flight hours of its surveillance aircraft over the Central Mediterranean to address the situation.
Frontex has also provided additional satellite imagery to cover critical points of departure for migrants in Tunisia. These measures are aimed at enhancing Italy's monitoring capabilities at sea and strengthening its capacity for potential search and rescue missions.
Frontex's Executive Director, Hans Leijtens, emphasized the collective responsibility of Europe in addressing this challenge. He stated, "We are actively collaborating with Italian authorities and stand ready to bolster our support. This is not just an Italian challenge but a collective one for Europe. Together, we embrace the shared responsibility of safeguarding the EU's external borders."
Frontex has significantly increased its presence and support in the Lampedusa region. Currently, around 40 officers and staff members are stationed on the island to assist Italian authorities in identifying and registering incoming individuals. Aerial surveillance is also a priority, with two aircraft based in Lampedusa and a drone operating from Malta to provide early warning and increase situational awareness.
Frontex is actively exploring options to further strengthen its presence in Lampedusa, including the possible deployment of officers to the island and the extension of boat patrol hours to combat criminal groups involved in people smuggling.
The agency is prepared to scale up its support for return activities as well. Frontex intends to deploy extra return experts, offer essential training, and explore the possibility of conducting identification missions in non-EU countries. These actions will be undertaken in direct response to specific requests made by Italian authorities, aiming to enhance and streamline return procedures.
Frontex's engagement in Italy is facilitated through its joint operation Themis, which comprises a comprehensive team of 283 officers and staff members, five ships, seven aircraft, 18 mobile offices, and four migration management vehicles.
By fLEXI tEAM