Frontex boosts support to Italy

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, will expand its support for Italy following the recent spike in the number of arrivals of irregular migrants on the island of Lampedusa.

Frontex has already agreed to double the number of flight hours of its aircraft that monitor the Central Mediterranean Sea and offered additional satellite images of the main departure areas of migrants from Tunisia. These measures will allow the Italian authorities to be better monitor the seas and will support any potential search and rescue operations.

The agency also offered additional support in the registration and identification of migrants by contributing mobile migration teams, comprising about 30 experts, to the port cities of Reggio Calabria and Messina, where many of the migrants were transported to.

“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,” said Frontex Executive Director Hans Leijtens.

Frontex already has nearly 40 officers and staff members on Lampedusa to help Italian authorities with the identification and registration of people arriving on the island, as well as one patrol vessel stationed there. In addition, the agency has two aircraft based on Lampedusa and one drone in Malta, assisting with aerial surveillance and providing early warning.  

Frontex is currently looking into sending additional officers to Lampedusa and increasing the number of patrolling hours of the vessels deployed in the area and support efforts to combat the criminal groups involved in people smuggling.

The agency is also ready to step up its support with return activities. Apart from sending additional return experts and providing training, Frontex may organise identification missions to non-EU countries based on the needs of the Italian authorities to facilitate return procedures.

Frontex is present in Italy through joint operation Themis, which in total consists of 283 officers and staff, five vessels, seven aircraft, 18 mobile offices and 4 vehicles for migration management.