After the deaths of more than 300 immigrants near the island of Lampedusa in October 2013, the European Council proposed the establishment of a special Task Force for the Mediterranean to prevent such incidents recurring in future. In December 2013, the Commission presented a communication with 37 short‐ and medium-term operational actions (Frontex, Eurosur, etc.), broken down into five main areas.
Following the tragic events in the Mediterranean, EU home affairs and foreign ministers agreed at the meeting of 20 April 2015 on action in three areas: a) priority for the fight against organised crime networks and human trafficking and smuggling gangs; b) strengthening Frontex activities in order to save lives at sea more effectively; c) a more equitable sharing of responsibility for resettlement and relocation plans.
In view of the above, will the Commission say:
— Precisely what measures will it take to carry out enhanced surveillance of the ‘external’ borders (Frontex)?
— Are the countries from which today’s immigrants originate included in the 17 readmission agreements concluded by the EU to date?
— Is it conducting discussions on amending its policy so as to introduce the proportionate allocation of the vast numbers of refugees to Member States, so that they assume a share of the social and economic burden proportionate to their size? If such discussions have been initiated, what criteria will be used to determine how refugees are allocated?
Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission
In line with the European Council statement of 23 April 2015, the Commission has tripled the budget for Frontex Joint-Operations Triton (Central Mediterranean) and Poseidon Sea (Aegean), extended the operational area, and increased the number of patrolling assets. These measures will contribute to saving lives at sea.
The majority of migrants who try to cross the Mediterranean originate from African or Middle Eastern countries. In this geographical area, the EU has only concluded readmission agreements with Cape-Verde and Turkey. On 9 September 2015, the Commission adopted an EU action plan on Return which presents the actions to enhance voluntary return, to strengthen the implementation of the Return Directive, to improve information sharing, to strengthen the role and mandate of Frontex in return operations, and to create an integrated system of return management.
After consultation of the European Parliament, the Council has adopted the decision to relocate 40 000 persons in clear need of international protection from Italy and Greece on 14 September 2015 and the decision to relocate an additional 120 000 persons in need of international protection from any Member States exposed to massive migratory flows on 22 September 2015(1).
(1) Council Decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece.