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Brussels, 20 February 2011
Statement by Commissioner Malmström announcing the launch of the Frontex operation “Hermes” in Italy as of 20 February 2011
“I am pleased to announce that as of today the Frontex mission “Hermes” will officially be deployed to assist the Italian authorities in managing the inflow of migrants from North Africa, particularly arrivals from Tunisia, on the island of Lampedusa.
The mission is part of a broader framework of measures by the European Commission to manage these exceptional migratory flows. Other actions include cooperation with Tunisian authorities, identification of financial emergency envelopes and assistance by the European Police Office (Europol).
I also welcome the timely discussion of ministers of Foreign affairs about comprehensive EU assistance to Tunisia expected on Monday. The Tunisian people are demanding democracy as well as economic and social development. Tackling these issues would decrease irregular immigration.
As part of the Hermes mission, experts from participating Member States will be deployed along with aerial and naval support to assist the Italian authorities. Human and technical resources could be increased according to future needs.
On the basis of the Operational Plan that was agreed with the Italian authorities, Frontex experts will assist in debriefing and interviewing migrants. Special attention is given to identifying those who may be in need of international protection. Frontex will also give aerial and naval support for border surveillance.
The mission is being launched four days after receiving the official request from the Italian authorities. This is a clear signal of European solidarity between Member States and a concrete proof of the European Commission’s commitment to assisting Italy in this difficult situation.”