The European Commission on Thursday in Brussels handed over $15.61 million (N3.1billion) to Rome, as extra funding to deal with the influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
The EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said this was in addition to the 500 million euros (N113billion) earmarked for Rome for the 2014-2020 periods. He said with the funding, Rome could extend its rescue mission off Italy.
Mr. Avramopoulos said, “We are willing to go further and Europe needs to manage migration better, in all aspects.”
The Head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, said more than 5,000 migrants have reached Italy so far this year on rickety boats that mostly set sail from Libya, in spite of winter storms that usually slow the flow.
Frontex is the agency of the European Union that manages the cooperation between national border guards that is undertaken to secure the external borders of the union.
This includes securing it from illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorist infiltration.
Mr. Leggeri said the recent ‘flood’ of arrivals suggested a record number of migrants would travel to Europe this year. He said the arrival would be spurred on by turbulence across much of the Arab world and Africa.
According to him, the operation of Mare Nostrum saved the lives of more than 100,000 migrants in little over a year. He, however, said it put a huge strain on Italy’s finances, costing some 9 million euros a month.
Mr. Leggeri said operation Triton costs between 1.5 million and 2.9 million euros a month and has no operational resources of its own, depending on contributions from EU member states.
He said an estimated 3,300 people died last year trying to cross the Mediterranean. Earlier this month, he said no fewer than 300 people are believed to have died after leaving Libya in inflatable rafts that were not sea worthy.
Mr. Leggeri said in the wake of those deaths, the UN refugee agency said Operation Triton was woefully inadequate and urged Europe to take a new approach.
Iverna McGowan, Acting Director Amnesty International, on Thursday in Brussels criticised the EU move.
He said EU extending Operation Triton without increasing its assets and operational area changes amounted to nothing. (Reuters/NAN)