Triton operation set to replace Mare Nostrum

New EU program to emphasize border controls in Mediterranean

(ANSA) - Rome, October 30 - The European Union's maritime patrol operation Triton is ready to take over responsibility on Saturday from Italy's Mare Nostrum Mediterranean rescue program, officials said Thursday.
    Triton, operated by the EU border agency Frontex, will use six ships, two airplanes, and one helicopter to patrol for illegal migrants fleeing from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
    But with only one-third of the budget of Mare Nostrum, officials have said Triton will emphasize border control more than rescue.
    The new operation comes after strenuous pressure from Italy to take over from the Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) migrant rescue program that was set up one year ago on an emergency basis after two boat disasters killed more than 300 migrants.
    It is expected that the Italian cabinet on Thursday will officially end the rescue program.
    Triton will have bases on the island of Lampedusa, Italy's southern-most point where many migrants land; and Porto Empedocle on the coast of Sicily. Patrols will also watch the Strait of Sicily and the sea off the coast of Calabria, while remaining within about 30 miles of Italian land.
    However, rescue operations can exceed that limit if needed and draw closer to the coast of Libya, which is reportedly a change from Mare Nostrum's remit. Equipment has been pledged by countries including France, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and non-EU member Iceland, the BBC has reported on its website About 150,000 migrants - mostly from northern Africa and the Middle East - have been rescued by Italian ships in the 12 months since Mare Nostrum began.


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