Tag Archives: Joint Operation Hermes Extension
Here is a short AFP article about Father Mussie Zerai who is in frequent contact by satellite phone with African refugees in Libya and with those who are in the process of leaving Libya: “A few steps away from St Peter’s Basilica, an Eritrean Catholic priest is on the phone with boats in the middle of the Mediterranean filled with African refugees fleeing Libya. Mussie Zerai receives calls from satellite phones on the boats and co-ordinates the arrival of hundreds of Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis with Italy’s coast guard and the NATO warships imposing a naval embargo on Libya….”
Click here for article.
Father Zerai’s organisation’s blog: habeshia.blogspot.com/
UPDATE: If you have information about a family member or friend who may be on a boat or if you are seeking information, please consider contacting the Agenzia Habeshia per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo in Italy at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org .
UPDATE: Click here for 19 April 2011 BBC article.
Frattini Criticises EU for Failure to Assist Italy; Frattini and MEPs Call for Implementation of Temporary Protection Directive and Mandatory Burden Sharing
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has again criticised what he describes as the EU’s and European Commission’s failure to assist Italy with the migrant situation in Lampedusa. Minister Frattini singled out Commissioner Malmström for his criticism. A statement on the Italian Foreign Ministry web site says that “Italy continues to solicit Europe’s help in confronting the immigration emergency, not only in terms of economic aid but also in terms of a plan for the distribution of the refugees among Member States. ‘Europe has been totally inert in this period’, Minister Frattini asserted and, commenting on EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström[‘s] observation that Italy had already received European funding for managing the influx, specified: ‘This is the typical expression of a European bureaucracy that thinks money alone solves everything’, but it is not enough, ‘there need to be policy interventions’. …[I]n addition to funds it is necessary to ‘invoke a European law clearly establishing the adoption of an extraordinary plan with any sudden influx of refugees toward one or more Member States, which includes the distribution of the refugees among Members within the temporary timeframe necessary to repatriate those who are not refugees, as in the case of the Tunisians, who are simply economic immigrants’.”
MEPs Simon Busuttil (Malta) and Salvatore Iacolino (IT) issued a press release calling on the Commission “to activate the Solidarity Mechanism envisaged in EU law in cases of mass influx of displaced persons. … ‘EU law already provides for a solidarity mechanism that can be triggered in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons (Council Directive 2001-55-EC)’ [and ‘we call upon the Commission to activate it’] Busuttil and Iacolino said.”
Click here for Italian Foreign Ministry statement.
Click here for MEPs Busuttil and Iacolino press release.
Click here for link to Temporary Protection Directive.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi visited Lampedusa this afternoon and said that all 6000 migrants now on the island would be moved to new locations within Italy, in Sicily and elsewhere, within 48-60 hours. He indicated that a navy ship and multiple civilian ferries would be used to transport the migrants. He promised a massive clean-up operation and beautification programme for the island, announced there would be a tax holiday for island residents, said Lampedusa would be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and said that he had just purchased a personal home on Lampedusa.
Berlusconi said new unspecified measures were being taken to prevent new migrant arrivals. He seemed to say that some vessels that could be used for the transport of migrants from Tunisia have been purchased by Italy (or by him?). (“Abbiamo attuato anche misure imprenditoriali. Ve ne diro’ una variopinta: abbiamo comprato pescherecci affinche’ non possano essere utilizzati per le traversate.” “We have also implemented business measures. I will tell you [something] colorful: we bought vessels so they can not be used for the crossings.”)
There has been a lull in migrant arrivals to the island; no new boats from Tunisia or Libya arrived overnight.
Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Monday that “[i]f [the Tunisian Government] do[es] not send specific signals [and begin] keeping the promise of a commitment to stop the migration, Italy will proceed with the forced repatriations.” (“Se non manderà segnali concreti, mantenendo la promessa di un impegno per fermare i flussi migratori, l’Italia procederà con i rimpatri forzosi.”) Maroni also said “Tunisia had promised an immediate commitment to stop migration, but the boats continue to arrive. We are not subject to blackmail as with Libya for oil. [Tunisia is] dependent on us, especially in the tourism sector.”
Foreign Minister Frattini said that if Tunisian migrants do not agree to assisted returns to Tunisia, with the possible payment of €1500 using EU funds, “there is a second level of intervention for those who do not accept assisted repatriation, which is stated in the Bossi-Fini law: expulsion.”
Over 1900 migrants have reached Lampedusa over the past 24 hour period. Approximately 3700 have arrived over the past 3 days. Fishermen have placed four empty migrant boats across the entry to the main harbour on the island in an effort to prevent the entry of migrant boats or Coast Guard boats carrying migrants. Officials say that by Wednesday of this week, ships with capacity to carry up to 10,000 people will arrive on Lampedusa in order to move many of the migrants now on the island to other locations.
The Italian government has tentatively considered the possibility of offering €1500 to any Tunisian who agrees to return to Tunisia. Foreign Minister Frattini said that Italy could pay the funds to those migrants willing to leave and that the funds would then be reimbursed to Italy by the EU Commission. The IOM would likely be asked to administer the program. The proposal was immediately and strongly criticised by Umberto Bossi the head of the Northern League and a fellow minister in the Berlusconi Government. Bossi called for the migrants to be returned to Tunisia. A statement posted later in the day on the Foreign Ministry web site said that the proposal would “be activated only in the presence of a full financing on the part of the European Union.”
The situation on Lampedusa continues to deteriorate. There were approximately 1000 new migrant arrivals yesterday. The migrant population on the island is approximately 5000 with 2500 people sleeping rough in makeshift tents made of plastic sheeting.
Click here for brief statement from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Frontex Announces Expansion of Joint Operation Poseidon Sea to Include Crete and Eastern Portions of Central Mediterranean
Two days after announcing the extension of Joint Operation Hermes and the westward expansion of the operational area of JO Hermes to include the waters around Sardinia, Frontex on 26 March announced the expansion of the operational area of Joint Operation Poseidon Sea to include the waters around Crete. The expansion is due to the “highly volatile situation in North Africa” and was called for by the European Council’s Conclusions issued at the end of the Council meeting of 24/25 March: “the Commission will make additional resources available in support to [Frontex’s] 2011 Hermes and Poseidon operations and Member States are invited to provide further human and technical resources.”
Excerpts from the Frontex statement: “March 26, 2011 — Responding to the highly volatile situation in North Africa Frontex extends operational area of its on-going Joint Operation (JO) Poseidon Sea. In the first four weeks of deployment Joint Operation Poseidon Land sees decreasing numbers of arrivals across the land border with Turkey. In view of potential migratory flows from Libya operational area of JO Poseidon Sea, which covers the Greek islands in the Aegean sea, has been widened to include Crete. On Thursday, 24 February Romanian maritime surveillance vessel and a Portuguese plane were deployed to increase patrolling intensity in this region. [***]”
Click here for Frontex Poseidon Sea press release.
Click here for the Frontex Hermes press release.
Click here for the Council Conclusions.
Click here for previous post on the expansion of JO Hermes.
On 23 March Frontex announced a 5 month extension of its Joint Operation Hermes. Frontex also announced a westward expansion of the operational area to include Sardinia, roughly 300 km northwest of Lampedusa. According to Frontex Director Laitinen, “100 percent [of] the request the Italian authorities [have] made to Frontex” has been satisfied.
Frontex statement in full:
“Warsaw, 23 March 2011 — Due to the notable increase in migratory pressure on Italy and the island of Lampedusa in particular, Frontex has widened the operational area of Joint Operation Hermes and extended its duration for five more months, with the aim of strengthening Europe’s border control response capability in the Central Mediterranean.
‘In close cooperation with the Italian authorities, we have decided to run Joint Operation Hermes until the end of August 2011, and to extend the operational area to include Sardinia, where Frontex has already deployed aerial assets to strengthen the patrolling capacity of the Italian authorities,’ said Frontex Executive Director Ilkka Laitinen.
‘Frontex is closely monitoring the developments in North Africa and stands ready to assist the Member States operationally if requested. We are also continuously developing additional operational responses for potential rapid deployment throughout the Mediterranean if needed,’ he added.
As of 23 March 2011, Lampedusa remained the main destination for migrants from Tunisia. During the previous week alone, 3,230 undocumented persons arrived on the island, bringing the total number of arrivals detected in the whole operational area since Hermes began on 20 February to 9,098. The majority of migrants are young men but 52 women and more than 240 minors were also detected during Italian-led Hermes. At the time of writing the great majority of migrants who recently arrived in Lampedusa claimed to be of Tunisian nationality.
In addition to one aircraft and two vessels already financed and coordinated by Frontex, one Dutch and one Portuguese plane have now arrived in Pantelleria and Sardinia respectively to assist the Italian authorities in strengthening their border control activities.
‘With this equipment and 20 experts currently working in the centres of Bari, Caltanisetta and Crotone, we have satisfied 100 percent the request the Italian authorities made to Frontex,’ Laitinen concluded.
The cost of the first 40 days of the operation amounts to EUR 2.6 mln.”
Click here for statement.
In an effort to relieve the severe overcrowding on Lampedusa, the San Marco, an Italian naval ship yesterday transported about 600 Tunisians from Lampedusa to Sicily. The ship’s departure was delayed by several hours because the ship’s captain had apparently not been given instructions where to take the migrants. The ship was eventually directed to sail to the port of Augusta on Sicily. It is unclear whether the ship will return to Lampedusa to pick up more migrants.
There has been confusion over the identity of the 600 migrants who were selected to be moved to Sicily. Initial statements by Italian officials said that the migrants who were to be moved had been identified as asylum seekers or were women and children. But later reports indicted that there were fewer than 20 women and children among the 600 and that none of the 600 have been identified as asylum seekers. UNHCR said that no formal refugee processing is being conducted on Lampedusa in part due to the chaos and severe overcrowding on the island and also due to the fact that only a few migrants have reportedly expressed a desire to seek asylum.
Approximately 650 other migrants were transported off the island yesterday by planes and yesterday marked the first day in many days where there was a net decrease in the migrant population on Lampedusa. 1200 migrants left the island and about 300 new migrants in seven boats arrived on the island yesterday.
Foreign Minister Frattini and Interior Minister Maroni are now scheduled to travel to Tunis on Friday, 25 March, to discuss a new migration agreement with Tunisia.
Save the Children released a press statement yesterday describing the conditions for more than 250 unaccompanied migrant children on Lampedusa and calling for their immediate transfer from the island. Excerpts:
“’The structure that has been allocated [to the children on Lampedusa] is totally inadequate and the conditions on an hourly basis are becoming more critical from the point of view of hygiene and [other conditions]’ said Raffaella Milano, Italy-Programs Manager, Save the Children Europe. Since the beginning of the increased arrivals of migrants from Tunisia – since February 10 – more than 530 children, the vast majority of them unaccompanied, have arrived in Lampedusa. Of these, 283 have been placed in communities to accommodate the children in Sicily. ‘More than 250 unaccompanied minors are still remaining in Lampedusa and many have been living many days in conditions that do not guarantee minimum standards of reception.’ … Save the Children calls for the transfer of the children and setting up temporary structures … if necessary, where the children may stay until being placed within the community. … This delay is not justifiable.”
For more information:
Press Office Save the Children Italy,
Click here for link to statement.
Also click here for 22 March UNHCR urgent call for action by the Italian authorities to alleviate overcrowding on Lampedusa.
According to the EUobserver, “[a] spokeswoman for … Frontex, … told this website that the Italian authorities have not yet asked for help in transferring the migrants from Lampedusa to Sicily, for instance by extending the existing ‘Hermes’ operation set up in February to assist them with the Tunisian situation.” No Frontex “debriefing experts sent by member states [are] based in Lampedusa.” “Romain Prevot, a French border official now based in Trapani, northern Sicily, told EUobserver that ‘initially we were supposed to be in Lampedusa,” but then “for security reasons,’ the Italian government decided to deploy them to Sicily and the mainland.”
Click here for full article.
Speaking at a press conference earlier today, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni reported that 117 migrants who are believed to be Libyan reached Catania, Sicily in two boats during the night of 20-21 March. According to Maroni, a total of 14,918 immigrants have landed in Italy since the beginning of the year. [UPDATED INFORMATION – more recent reports suggest that the many or all of the migrants involved may be Egyptian nationals who posed as Libyans, possibly for purposes of seeking refugee protection. Click here (IT) for more recent article.]
Inhumane Conditions on Lampedusa; Local Residents Block Ship Carrying Supplies for Migrants in Effort to Prevent Construction of Tent City
Hundreds of migrants from Tunisia continue to arrive on Lampedusa. While thousands of the migrants have been moved to other locations in Italy, over 4000 are now on the island. Their living conditions are dangerous and unsanitary. Many of the newly arriving migrants have wet clothes and lack shoes and are being housed outdoors without shelter. Hundreds do not have access to toilets, wash facilities, or adequate food. About 700 migrants reportedly arrived yesterday, but only 300 migrants were able to be transferred off the island yesterday. An Italian navy ship is expected to arrive in the “coming hours” which will have the capacity to transport at least 1000, perhaps 2000, migrants from the island. The mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino De Rubeis, said “[t]he attitude of the State is a shame. Italy is allowing thousands of these immigrants to be treated like animals, forced to sleep under the water. All of Italy should be ashamed. («L’atteggiamento dello Stato è vergognoso. L’Italia sta consentendo che queste migliaia di immigrati vengano trattati come bestie, obbligati a dormire sotto l’acqua. Tutta l’Italia dovrebbe vergognarsi».)
Hundreds of local residents engaged in a new round of demonstrations yesterday by preventing the unloading of a ship carrying tents, portable toilets, and other supplies for the migrants on the island. The residents are trying to prevent the creation of a tent city. They fear that if conditions for the migrants are improved, it is less likely that the migrants will be moved from the island to other locations.
Click here (IT) for update from EveryOne Group.
Hundreds of Tunisians Continue to Arrive in Lampedusa; Italian Navy Ship to Transport Migrants from Island to Relieve Overcrowding; Local Residents Block Migrant Landings
Hundreds of Tunisians continue to reach Lampedusa. Conditions at the main migrant reception centre on the island are extremely bad due to massive overcrowding and hundreds of migrants are sleeping in the open under tarps. The centre is currently holding about 3000 persons whereas its capacity is supposed to be limited to 800 persons. An Italian navy ship was scheduled to arrive on the island late on the 19th or on the 20th of March and it is anticipated that the ship will transport at least 1000 migrants to other locations in Italy.
Some local residents protested the continuing arrival of migrant boats by preventing for several hours coast guard and Guardia di Fiananza boats carrying rescued migrants from docking and disembarking the migrants in port.