Italian calls for more assistance in dealing with the flood of migration, predominantly from North and sub-Saharan Africa have been answered with a new campaign by FRONTEX, the EU’s external border organisation according to the BBC.
The EU Agency says it has pledged new equipment to Operation TRITON and plans to deploy six ships and three aircraft a month and will have a budget of €2.9m a month – a massive rise on the €5 million annual budget given to the organisation in the EU budget.
According to statistics, about 165,000 ‘irregular migrants’ have tried to enter Europe by boat across the Mediterranean this year alone; a threefold increase in numbers on 2013. Almost half of these come from Eritrea and Syria.
The world’s focus on the situation in Lampedusa, the Italian Island which is the closest part of the EU to many countries on the African Continent, was brought after an estimated 300 people drowned when their overcrowded fishing boat sank en route to the island.
The EU countries of Italy, Greece and Malta have been hardest hit by the increased number of migrants with rules of the Schengen Agreement putting the majority of assessments of applications on the shoulders of those countries.
The tiny Spanish territory of Melilla in Morocco has also become a magnet for poor sub-Saharan migrants. About 100 tried to scale the border fence there on Tuesday and at least five got in.
The Schengen area and the removal of internal borders has led to free movement of half a billion people in those countries signed up to the agreement: a move which puts a great pressure on the border countries who now have to process applications on behalf of all the other countries.
A leaked document from the Council of the European Union made public a new strategy for dealing with immigration into Europe. The Mos Marorium on illegal immigration is a Joint Police Operation running from the 13th and 26th October and is tasked not only with assisting with processing migrants but importantly, to gather intelligence on those trying to enter the EU in order to better deal with it.
With the Italians taking the rotating Presidency of the Council it was inevitable that there would be focus on the huge burden which the Schengen border countries are facing.
Italy has frequently complained about the financial burden it faces and this new joint operation will be welcome in Rome particularly as it specifies that each participating country and Frontex should cover the costs relating to its involvement in the operation.
Earlier in the week several hundred people, mainly police and shop keepers, gathered in the French town of Calais to protest about the number of migrants who are camped in the town. About 1500 migrants looking to travel to the UK are living in shanty town style camps near the port.