In February, tragedies in the Mediterranean have once again called civil society and institutions to find a solution to the increasing number of migrants risking their life crossing the sea in search of a (better) future. The situation in neighbouring countries failing to stabilise, notably in Libya, desperate migration has reached historical records, with more than 2000 rescued mid-February off the coast of Lampedusa, while Spanish enclave Melilla saw migrants climb over the bordering fence in their last attempt to save themselves.
Increasing support to Italy
Before this situation, EU Commission announced on 19th February it would increase its support to Italy, first by extending the joint operation Triton at least until the end of 2015; secondly, by granting 13,7 million euros as emergency funding via the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. These two measures are part of the European response to the migration issue which touches all EU countries – but is effectively dealt with essentially by three of them (Italy, Greece and Spain). Indeed, as pointed out by Frans Timmermans, First Commission Vice-President, “as long as there are wars and hardships in our neighbourhood, people will continue to risk their lives in search of European shores. There is no simple solution to this complex problem, but it is clear that there is no national solution. There is only a European solution”. These words were corroborated by Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos who said: “Today we face a stark reality: Europe needs to manage migration better, in all aspects. And this is above all a humanitarian imperative. No, we cannot replace Italy in the management of the external borders but we can lend a helping hand. So we will extend Operation Triton and we will increase its resources if this is what Italy needs. At the same time, we are not building Fortress Europe. Our resettlement efforts have improved and now we are working to propose a credible number of resettlement places, on a voluntary basis, to offer alternative legal avenues to protection. The message we are sending today is very simple: Italy is not alone. Europe stands with Italy.”
What is the Joint Operation Triton?
Launched on 1st November 2014, Triton is a Frontex coordinated Joint Operation, requested by the Italian authorities to support them in the Central Mediterranean.
The operation’s monthly budget is estimated at between €1.5 and 2.9 million per month. 21 Member States participate in Joint Operation Triton with human (65 guest officers in total) and technical resources (12 technical assets: two Fixed Wing Aircrafts, one Helicopter, two Open Shore patrol vessels, six coastal Patrol Vessel, one Coastal patrol boat; five debriefing/screening teams).
The initial tentative operational budget allocation for the continuation of Joint Operation Triton until the end of the year 2015 is estimated at €18 250 000. For the management of its border, Italy already receives more than €150 million under the Internal Security Fund for Borders.
In addition to the €13.7 million in Emergency Funding for asylum seekers and refugees, €1.715 million will be granted to continue the project “Praesidium”, which is implemented by the Italian authorities together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration, Save the Children Italy and the Italian Red Cross. “Praesidium” focuses on the first arrival procedures, mainly in Sicily, including the first reception, medical screening, legal information and special support for vulnerable asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, and monitoring of the reception conditions in the centres hosting asylum seekers, which are highly challenged by the large inflows.
Frontex has only a supporting function and can only provide assistance to Member States at their request.