Commissioner Cecilia Malmström announced today that the new Frontex mission, Operation Hermes, will begin operations tomorrow, 20 February. According to AFP, the initial deployment will consist of about 30 personnel, aircraft, and several ships. A dozen member states have expressed willingness to send assests to the new joint operation.
In an interview published earlier today, before the announcement of Operation Hermes, Commissioner Malmström clearly stated that the Frontex mission will be governed by European legislation and that the interdiction and push-back of migrants encountered at sea is not permitted. In the earlier interview the Commissioner said that the mission will provide surveillance by air in support of the Italian authorities which will detect any new influx of migrants as soon as it occurs and sound the alarm for naval surveillance which will in turn lead migrant boats to “safe ports.” (“Di sorveglianza dal cielo in supporto alle autorità italiane. Potranno individuare ogni nuovo flusso di migranti non appena si manifesti. E lanciare l’allarme ai mezzi di sorveglianza navale, facendo condurre i barconi verso porti sicuri.”) When asked whether push-backs of migrant boats would occur, the Commissioner said that the push-back practice was prohibited by European norms. (“I respingimenti sono espressamente proibiti dalle norme europee.”)