The assets dedicated to Joint Operation Hermes Extension continue to increase, although at present there are only two coastal patrol boats (Italian) participating in the Frontex mission. Ten surveillance aircraft will soon be deployed. See the table with the list of resources below.
While the naval assets dedicated to JO Hermes Extension are minimal, there is a growing number of EU and NATO naval ships in the Central Mediterranean. Nicolas Gros-Verheyde (writing on the Bruxelles2 blog (FR)) has counted 14 naval ships from EU states that are present in the waters near Libya; the ships consist of destroyers, frigates, electronic surveillance ships, and supply and support ships. Additionally, Turkey has two naval ships in the area.
Some of the naval ships have already been used to evacuate European and other non-Libyan nationals from Libya. What additional activity the EU ships may engage in remains to be seen. They may become involved in military activities (presumably with UN authority (?)) and/or they may play a yet undetermined role should there be a sudden flow of migrants and asylum seekers from Libya. If there is a sudden and significant migratory flow, the naval ships should function in a search and rescue manner, but there is always the possibility that if faced with large numbers of migrants, the navy vessels may be used to interdict, blockade, or otherwise to try to prevent migrants from leaving Libya.
Click here for link to Frontex update regarding deployed assets.
Click here and here for Bruxelles2 postings. (FR)
Table: Resources available to JO Hermes Extension 2011 as of February 25, 2011.
||2 Coastal Patrol Vessel, 1 aircraft, 5 experts, 2 cultural mediators
||10 experts, 1 aircraft
||2 experts, 2 aircrafts
||1 aircraft, 2 experts
||7 experts, 1 aircraft
||4 experts, 1 aircraft (at a later stage)
Filed under Algeria, Data / Stats, European Union, Frontex, General, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia
Frontex posted a situational map showing current and past information regarding migrant flows from Tunisia to Italy. The map is dated 25 Feb. 2011.
A Justice and Home Affairs press release summarizing today’s JHA Council meeting includes the following brief summary regarding the topic of migratory flows from North Africa:
“Over lunch, ministers discussed the situation in Northern Africa, and particularly the situation in Libya and the influx of migrants, above all from Tunisia to Italy. Since the beginning of the year, some 6000 immigrants have arrived mainly to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Following a formal request for help from the Italian Ministry of Interior, received on February 15, Frontex and Italy have started a Joint Operation in the central Mediterranean area on Sunday 20 February. Joint Operation Hermes 2011, originally planned to commence in June, was thus brought forward. Assets and experts for this operation were made available from a large number of EU member states. More information. In addition to that, the Commission is studying different funding possibilities through various EU instruments, such as the European Refugee Fund, the European Return Fund and the European Border Fund.”
It is unclear whether the JHA Council will address this topic further tomorrow when the Council meeting resumes.
Click here for full JHA press release.
Here is the latest update from the Frontex web site:
“… Joint Operation Hermes 2011, originally planned to commence in June, was brought forward and started on February 20 with a provisional end-date of March 31 as an initial phase with a possible extension if needed. The Operational Plan was prepared on the basis of a Tailored Risk Analysis, created by Frontex at Italy’s request…. As with all Frontex-coordinated Joint Operations, the host Member State (Italy) will play the leading role. All maritime assets and crews will be provided by the Italian authorities and will patrol a predefined area with a view to detecting and preventing illegitimate border crossings to the Pelagic Islands, Sicily and the Italian mainland. Aerial assets made available by other Member States for enhanced border surveillance and search and rescue capability will support these sea patrols. Meanwhile, second-line border control will be supported through the deployment of debriefing and screening experts to identify migrants’ nationalities and to gather intelligence on people-smuggling networks. Further support may also be made available in the area of return operations.
Assets and experts made available by the Member States for Hermes 2011 joint operation:
- Naval means: Italy
- Aerial means: Italy, France, the Netherlands, Malta, Spain
- Experts: Italy, Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Malta, Portugal, and Spain …
The Europol Mobile Office is deployed on the spot in Lampedusa. Europol experts will also provide operational analytical support throughout the operation.”
Click here for full statement.
Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen was interviewed by Spiegel Online. He expressed the view that Frontex’s main task in regard to the 5000 or so Tunisian migrants who have reached Italy over the past several weeks will be facilitating the return of most of them to Tunisia. According to Laitinen, only a “very few” of the Tunisians have sought asylum protection. He also said that Frontex “experts [had] come to the conclusion that the flight of the 5,000 had been planned for a long time. ‘Twenty human traffickers have already been arrested[.] They had just been waiting for the right opportunity.’”
While the view that most of the Tunisians who have arrived to date in Italy will not qualify for asylum or subsidiary protection is shared by many others, if and when people begin fleeing directly from Libya, whether they be Libyan or non-Libyan, there will almost certainly be a much larger number of qualified asylum seekers in any new migrants flows, especially if the Gaddafi regime remains in power.
Click here for article.
The Times of Malta reported on Sunday that the Armed Forces of Malta have not agreed to contribute assets or personnel to Frontex’s Operation Hermes. AFM is still evaluating a request by Frontex to participate.
Click here for article.
A short statement by the Commissioner regarding Operation Hermes was posted on the EU External Affairs web page today: “…The mission is part of a broader framework of measures by the European Commission to manage these exceptional migratory flows. Other actions include cooperation with Tunisian authorities, identification of financial emergency envelopes and assistance by the European Police Office (Europol). … As part of the Hermes mission, experts from participating Member States will be deployed along with aerial and naval support to assist the Italian authorities. Human and technical resources could be increased according to future needs. On the basis of the Operational Plan that was agreed with the Italian authorities, Frontex experts will assist in debriefing and interviewing migrants. Special attention is given to identifying those who may be in need of international protection. Frontex will also give aerial and naval support for border surveillance….”
Click here for full statement.
Frontex news release: “Hermes 2011 Starts Tomorrow in Lampedusa, 19-02-2011
Joint Operation (JO) Hermes 2011 is due to start tomorrow with the deployment of additional aerial and maritime assets from Italy and Malta. In the following days the second line activities will be activated with the deployment of debriefing/screening experts. Their task will be to gather information necessary needed for analysis, to make assumptions concerning migrants’ nationalities, and to enable early detection and prevention of possible criminal activities at the EU external borders. Next important element of this operation will be to provide assistance at the following stage focusing on organising return operations to the countries of origin. Frontex risk analysis experts will be supporting Italian authorities producing targeted risk analysis identifying vulnerabilities and security risks that might occur at the EU southern external border.
Background – Frontex received a formal request for assistance on February 15th from the Italian Ministry of Interior regarding the extraordinary migratory situation in the Pelagic Islands. The Italian Government requested assistance in strengthening the surveillance of the EU’s external borders in the form of a Joint Operation. Additionally, Italy requested a targeted risk analysis on the possible future scenarios of the increased migratory pressure in the region in the light of recent political developments in North Africa and the possibility of the opening up of a further migratory front in the Central Mediterranean area.
According to the Italian Ministry of Interior, approximately 6,000 irregular migrants, mostly of the Tunisian origin, have arrived on the Italian coast in the last month, of whom 3,000 have arrived since February 11th. Before February 11th, only 14 Tunisian nationals had arrived on the Italian coast in 2011.”
Click here for link.
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.”)
Click here and here for articles. (IT)
Rustamas Liubajevas, Head, Frontex Joint Operations Unit, presented a lecture entitled “Frontex within integrated Border management concept – Structural approach in planning capability” at the recent Annual Conference of the European Defence Agency.
Copies of some of his slides are reproduced here.
Click here for full slide presentation.
Filed under Aegean Sea, Algeria, Colloques / Conferences, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Morocco, News, Senegal, Spain, Turkey