Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is launching a new operation in the Central Mediterranean to assist Italy in border control activities.
The new Joint Operation Themis will begin on 1 February and will replace operation Triton, which was launched in 2014. Operation Themis will continue to include search and rescue as a crucial component. At the same time, the new operation will have an enhanced law enforcement focus.
Its operational area will span the Central Mediterranean Sea from waters covering flows from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Albania.
“Operation Themis will better reflect the changing patterns of migration, as well as cross border crime. Frontex will also assist Italy in tracking down criminal activities, such as drug smuggling across the Adriatic,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.
The security component of Operation Themis will include collection of intelligence and other steps aimed at detecting foreign fighters and other terrorist threats at the external borders.
“We need to be better equipped to prevent criminal groups that try to enter the EU undetected. This is crucial for the internal security of the European Union,” Leggeri said.
As part of Operation Themis, Frontex will continue its presence in the hotspots in Italy, where officers deployed by the agency will assist the national authorities in registering migrants, including taking their fingerprints and confirming their nationalities.
Frontex vessels will continue search and rescue operations under the coordination of the responsible Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres. Last year, Frontex assisted in the rescue of 38 000 people at sea in operations in Italy, Greece and Spain.