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Brussels, 31 October 2014
Frontex Joint Operation 'Triton' – Concerted Efforts for managing migrator flows in the Central Mediterranean
What is Triton?
Triton is a Frontex coordinated joint operation, requested by the Italian authorities that will start its activity as from 1 November 2014 in the Central Mediterranean to support Italy.
How have the details of the operation been defined?
The details of Triton, including the operational area and the necessary assets, have been agreed between Frontex and Italy as the host state on the basis of the requests for assistance made by the Italian authorities. The final setting of the operation fully matches the requests made by the Italian authorities. Triton will rely on human and technical resources made available by the participating Member States.
How many Member States have made available technical and human resources and what?
Today 21 Member States have indicated their willingness to participate with human (65 guest officers in total) and technical resources (12 technical assets) at the start of the joint operation Triton; others might follow in the coming months. Technical equipment: 4 Fixed Wing Aircrafts, 1 Helicopter, 4 Open Shore vessels, 1 coastal Patrol Vessel, 2 Coastal patrol boats. Human Resources: 65 men/months in total.
What is Triton's budget?
Its monthly budget is estimated at €2.9 million per month. In order to finance the launch and the first phase of the operation, funds have been reallocated from the Internal Security Fund and from within the Frontex budget. An increase of the Frontex 2015 budget has to be agreed by the European Parliament and the Council in order to finance the operation with the same intensity in the year 2015 and in the longer run.
Which rules will apply to the Frontex coordinated operation when it comes to migrants' rights?
As for all Frontex operation, Triton will be operating in full respect of international and EU law, including respect of fundamental rights and of the principle of non-refoulement.
Will Triton also be participating in search and rescue activities?
The role of Frontex is key to support Member States towards effective border control in the Mediterranean region, and at the same time to provide assistance to persons or vessels in distress during these operations. Frontex is entrusted with assisting Member States in circumstances requiring increased technical assistance at the external borders, taking into account that some situations may involve humanitarian emergencies and rescue at sea. Although Frontex is neither a search and rescue body nor does it take up the functions of a Rescue Coordination Centre, it assists Member States to fulfil their obligation under international maritime law to render assistance to persons in distress.
Will Triton replace Mare Nostrum?
Joint operation Triton is intended to support the Italian efforts at their request, and does not replace or substitute Italian obligations in monitoring and surveying the Schengen external borders and in guaranteeing full respect of EU and international obligations1 in particular when it comes to search and rescue at sea. It implies that Italy will have to continue making continued substantial efforts using national means, fully coordinated with the Frontex operation, in order to manage the situation at the external borders.
Background on Frontex assistance to Italy
Weeks after the tragic drowning of over 300 persons around the Island of Lampedusa in October 2013, Italy launched a major search and rescue operation called 'Mare Nostrum' operated by the Italian Navy.
The Mare Nostrum operation is on-going close to the Libyan coast with Italian naval assets. The EU has supported the operation financially with €1.8 million from the emergency actions under the External Borders Fund.
Frontex has also provided assistance to Italy through the two coordinated joint operations Hermes and Aeneas. Both these operations will be replaced by Triton.
The joint operation Hermes coordinated by Frontex has, in one form or the other and with few interruptions, been going on for several years. Italy has acted as the sole host state.
This joint operation has been on-going close to the Italian coast to control the EU external borders in line with the mandate of the Frontex Agency with a yearly budget for 2014 of around €5 million. In accordance with the host state's request, sea borne assets in the joint operation come from Italy (Coast Guard and/or Guardia di Finanza); other Member States have contributed with one surveillance aircraft and guest officers on land to help with screening/debriefing.
Frontex also coordinated joint operation Aeneas with Italy as host state. This operation mainly focussed on migratory flows from Egypt and Turkey (via Greece) to Italy.
Among others, the obligations stemming from the Schengen Borders Code and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as the International convention for the safety of life at sea (SOLAS), the International convention on maritime search and rescue (SAR) as well as resolutions from the International maritime organisation (IMO).