In response to the recent increase in irregular migrant arrivals on the island of Lampedusa, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, has decided to increase its assistance to Italy.
In a statement released on September 20, Frontex said it had taken proactive steps to address the situation by agreeing to double the flight hours of its surveillance aircraft over the Central Mediterranean, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
In addition, Frontex has also provided additional satellite imagery covering critical points of departure for migrants in Tunisia. These measures aim to increase Italy’s monitoring capabilities at sea and strengthen its capacity for potential search and rescue missions.
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 Executive Director Hans Leijtens
Frontex has significantly increased its presence and support in the Lampedusa region. They currently have around 40 officers and staff members stationed on the island to assist the Italian authorities with 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.
Moreover, Frontex is also actively exploring options to strengthen its presence in Lampedusa further. According to Frontex, this includes the possible deployment of officers to the island and the extension of boat patrol hours to combat better the activities of criminal groups involved in people smuggling.
In addition to these measures, the authority said it is prepared to scale up its support for return activities. In this regard, 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 the specific requests made by the Italian authorities, all aiming to enhance and streamline return procedures.
Frontex’s engagement in Italy is facilitated through its joint operation Themis, which boasts a comprehensive team of 283 officers and staff members, five ships, seven aircraft, 18 mobile offices, and four migration management vehicles.
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