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).
Click here, here, here, here, and here for previous posts on the sea border rule and the ECJ challenge.
The Times of Malta reported on Friday that Malta has for the second consecutive year informed Frontex that it will not host or participate in joint sea patrols in the Central Mediterranean, saying that there is no need for the patrols given the drastic reduction in the number of boat people attributable to Italy’s push-back practice with Libya which has been in effect since 2009. Only 47 migrants reached Malta in 2010 compared with 2,775 in 2008. Frontex’s Central Mediterranean joint operation, referred to as Operation Nautilus (renamed Operation Chronos last year), has in past years operated during the summer sailing months when sea conditions are most favourable for small boats.
Last year Malta initially said that it would not host the joint operation due to the then recently approved guidelines governing Frontex enforcement operations at sea which required that intercepted migrants be taken to the country hosting the mission under certain circumstances. A Maltese government spokesperson later said that the decision not to host the operation was not due to the new guidelines, but was due to Malta’s view that there was no longer a need for the operation because of the success of the Italy-Libya migration agreement. “The reason why we decided not to take part in [the 2010] mission is that we feel there is no need for this year’s EU patrol. We have noticed that, following the introduction of joint patrols by Libya and Italy last year, the number of illegal immigrants reaching Malta has dropped significantly. We feel that, as long as this operation remains in place, there is no real need for another anti-migration mission on behalf of the EU.”
Click here for article.
See my previous posts:
Italy and Malta question need for Frontex sea patrols (9 July 2010)
Malta says Frontex Chronos Mission not needed due to success of Italy-Libya push-back agreement (29 April 2010)