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.