Today the European Commission has announced that it is stepping up its assistance to Italy. Firstly, the Frontex Joint Operation Triton will be extended until at least the end of 2015. Secondly, the European Commission has awarded an amount of €13.7 million in emergency funding from theAsylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to Italy. The European Commission also stands ready to react quickly to any Italian request to increase the resources of Joint Operation Triton. To help Member States prepare for potentially continued high pressure given the ongoing instability in some countries in the Mediterranean neighbourhood, the Commission is also stepping up its surveillance of the implementation of the recommendations of the Mediterranean Task Force and will report back to the March Home Affairs Council on progress made. This comes on top of the support for Italy in dealing with migratory pressures of a total of more than €500 million for 2014-2020.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “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. We are working hard to prepare a comprehensive approach in a new European Agenda on Migration to be presented this year. In the meantime, we have heard Italy’s call and are responding in every way we can, and we are ready to respond constructively if Italy identifies the need to step up Operation Triton’s resources.”
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, said:“As we work to tackle the dramatic situation in Libya, we have decided to step-up our partnership with third countries along the main migratory routes as part of our cooperation on the Khartoum and Rabat processes. This should help to dismantle criminal networks of traffickers and smugglers and to give maximum protection to those in need, starting with areas neighbouring crises. Our resettlement efforts have improved and this should help to stabilise refugee communities in third countries, together with the work of the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration.”
Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos 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.”
Managing the external borders: Boosting Joint-Operation Triton
Triton is a Frontex coordinated Joint Operation, requested by the Italian authorities that started its activity on 1 November 2014 in the Central Mediterranean to support Italy. Since then, almost 19.500 people have been saved, out of which close to 6.000 directly due to the deployment of Frontex Joint Operation Triton. 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).
Frontex has only a supporting function and can only provide assistance to Member States at their request. So far, all Italian requests for assistance have been met in full. The European Commission has today confirmed that it stands ready to look constructively at any Italian request for greater assistance.
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.
€13.7 million in Emergency Funding for asylum seekers and refugees
In a first step, the Commission has today put €13.7 million in emergency funding from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) at Italy’s disposal to support the country in managing the high influx of asylum seekers and improve the situation on the ground.
The Italian authorities made an additional request for emergency assistance in light of the dramatic increase of arrivals of unaccompanied minors (by 278% compared with 2013), focusing on their reception and assistance. An amount of approximately €11.95 million will now be granted.