The European Commission has given more detailed information on the new ‘hotspot’ approach to the worst migration crisis since the second World War and hopefully charts out an actionable plan to help aid frontline nations like Italy and Greece in times of mass migration. The plan will have the European Asylum Support Office, EU Border Agency, EU Police Cooperation Agency, and the EU Judicial Cooperation Agency on the ground to assist member states fingerprint and register incoming migrants. The hotspot approach will complement the temporary relocation scheme proposed by the Commission on 27 May and 9 September, and currently Italy and Greece are the only member states that the approach is currently being applied.
Support and Resources?
The operation support in the hotspot approach will focus on registration, identification, fingerprinting, and debriefing of asylum seekers as well as return operations. Those who wish to claim asylum will be met by EASO support teams who will process applications as quickly as possible, those who are assessed as not needing protection will be dubbed ‘irregular migrants’ and returned by Frontex (EU Border Agency). From there, Europol and Eurojust will assist host member states with the police work necessary to dismantle smuggling and trafficking networks.
In Italy, Frontext currently has 11 screening experts and 22 debriefing experts whose location varies by operational needs. EASO also has 45 experts ready to be deployed to Italy shortly to help assist in these proceedings.
In Greece, Frontex is already present in Greece for Operation Poseidon and has deployed 4 screening experts and 8 debriefing experts on the Greek islands. Frontex is already present on the ground, and the EASO is preparing to present a draft of a plan Greek authorities that would deploy 28 experts.
Where are the hotspots?
In Italy, the Commission is coordinating its on the ground options in Catania (Sicily), and has identified the ports: Pozzallo, Porto Empedocles, Trapani as being hotspots and has developed the capacity to fingerprint and identify approximately 1,500 persons with two additional facilities ready in Augusta and Taranto by the end of this year.
Hotspots in Greece are still being set up, and the hotspot headquarters are in Piraeus where the specific geographic challenges posed by Greece will be assessed and a plan formed for developing hotspots on the Greek isles to help address the crisis on the ground there.
When will the hotspots be operational?
On 15 July 2015 Commissioner Avramopoulos sent a roadmap to EU Member States outlining the development of a hotspot approach, and the two systems are expected to be operational very soon. Operational planning is nearly complete in Italy and Greece and many groups are already working on the ground there. Hungary has recently been added to the EU temporary relocation scheme, but at this time they are not part of the hotspot approach.