A patrol vessel rescuing migrants during an EU sea patrol mission | Credit: Triton/Frontex/Archive/EPA
A patrol vessel rescuing migrants during an EU sea patrol mission | Credit: Triton/Frontex/Archive/EPA

The director of EU border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, said that Italy is going "in the right direction" to strengthen its repatriation efforts. Overall, 150,000 migrants were repatriated from the EU in 2017, according to Leggeri.

"This gives the measure that it's feasible," Fabrice Leggeri told ANSA. "I expressed concern for the drop on decisions on repatriations in the EU, which were lower compared to the previous year. But if there is the will to allocate more resources and financing, the situation can be improved on a European level." He was responding to a question on the possible deportation of between 500,000 and 600,000 migrants without residency permits currently living in Italy. 

Leggeri said the situation on the central Mediterranean migrant route to Italy "has improved and is under control" but "isn't resolved". He said arrivals have "dropped drastically" since July 2017, confirming a downward trend, with only 300 arrivals in the first two weeks of February 2018. 

Italy headed in the right direction?

"Italy, in the past year, was one of the EU member states that increased its repatriation efforts, both in terms of decisions and in terms of operations," Leggeri said. In an interview with ANSA, he said the country is moving "in the right direction to strengthen this policy". "My concerns about the drop in decisions for repatriations don't regard Italy," he said. 

He praised that the relationship between Rome and his agency had improved. "Frontex cooperation with Italy in the field of repatriations has increased. Last year Italy was among the top three member states who used the efforts of the EU agency to repatriate migrants," Leggeri said. "Thanks to Italy, we were even able to organize repatriations to Sudan, because it has a new collaboration with that country," he said. 

Risk of foreign fighters 

Frontex has increased efforts to prevent foreign fighters from returning to Europe among migrant flows. Leggeri said the return of foreign fighters "is a risk" despite the fact that "there haven't been any documented cases". He said that small groups of migrants have been observed arriving from Tunisia and Algeria in Sardinia and southern Italy. "That's why we've increased our interception capabilities, increasing awareness of this possible risk". 

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