The European Voice reports that Frontex began consultations yesterday with member states to identify what equipment and personnel they will commit to a planned joint operation with Italy to deter migrants seeking to leave North Africa. “Naval vessels, surveillance aircraft and enhanced radar tracking are likely to be deployed….”
Assuming an emergency joint operation is deployed in the coming days, it may to some extent simply be a revival of Frontex’s Joint Operation Nautilus (slated to be renamed Operation Chronos). Less than two weeks ago, on 4 February Malta for the second year running announced that it would not host or participate in Operation Nautilus this year due to the success of Italy’s push-back agreement with Libya which eliminated the movement of migrants in the Central Mediterranean.
Malta, however, also likely refused to host the Frontex mission due to the 2010 guidelines governing Frontex enforcement operations at sea which require that intercepted migrants be taken to the country hosting the Frontex mission under certain circumstances. The validity of the Frontex sea border rule is currently under review by the European Court of Justice. The legal challenge to the rule was brought by the European Parliament. Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil initiated the challenge within the LIBE Committee. It will be interesting to see what role Malta will be willing to play in any new emergency joint operation. Even though the Frontex sea border rule is under review by the ECJ, the referral clearly requested the ECJ “to preserve the effects of the measure until a new legislative act has been adopted.” The rule therefore remains in effect.
Click here for EV article.
Click here for the Council decision on the surveillance of sea external borders (the Sea Border Rule).