The European Union’s private border force is again expanding its own role and powers. Today it has extended its area of operations south, right to the limit of Libyan territorial waters.
The new bounds of operation Triton, the European Union’s own border protection force in the Mediterranean, now stretches 138 nautical miles (159 miles) south from the tip of Sicily. This takes them well beyond the coasts of Tunisia and Algeria and right up to the edge of Libya’s uncontrolled territorial waters. The European Union hopes by sending warships and coastguard craft further south, migrant boats can be picked up earlier – almost as soon as they have set off from the Libyan coast, on their voyage for asylum in Europe.
TheLocal.it reports the comments of the director of the European border force Frontex Fabrice Leggeri, who said of the change: “We have dramatically increased the deployment levels in the Central Mediterranean to support the Italian authorities in controlling its sea borders and in saving lives, too many of which have already been tragically lost this year”.
The operation is to receive an extra £18.5 million funding for the next six months alone.
The remarkable volume of people now attempting to leave Africa for Europe is straining both the navies patrolling the Mediterranean and the nations accepting the migrants to their limits. So far the majority of those making the crossing have stayed in Italy, where they make landfall, but the European Union is attempting to spread the burden by asking other nations to take in a share of what they estimate to be 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers estimated to arrive over the next two years.
Less conservatively, Italy puts the number at closer to 200,000 for this year alone.