The European Union has launched a Frontex operation to help Italy deal with a wave of Tunisian immigrants who have arrived on its island of Lampedusa in the last few days. The operation was launched on 20 February with around thirty experts, one plane and a few ships. Over ten EU countries plus Switzerland have promised to join in with the two countries which are already active in the area (Italy and Malta).
Officially, the operation, which has been dubbed Hermes 2011', was launched up until 31 March. But it will no doubt be extended, said a spokesperson from Frontex, the EU's external border monitoring agency headquartered in Warsaw. Following an Italian request four days ago, Frontex is to help Rome manage the inflow of migrants from North Africa, in particular the arrival of some 6,000 people from Tunisia on Lampedusa in the last few days.
"The mission is part of a broader framework of measures taken by the European Commission to manage these exceptional migration flows," said Internal Security Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. Other actions include "cooperation with the Tunisian authorities," "the identification of urgent financial needs" as well as assistance from the European Police Office (Europol). Frontex experts will help the Italian authorities interview migrants and identify those needing international protection.
Frontex will also take part in the naval and air surveillance of Italy's borders. "This is …