The European Union has been warned of a new wave of illegal immigrants from Africa
The European commission yesterday warned of a fresh wave of tens of thousands of illegal migrants arriving on the beaches of southern Europe this summer and issued an appeal for help in curbing migration from sub-Saharan Africa.
Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner for justice and home affairs, warned that there would be a new wave of migration when warmer weather arrives in April and accused EU member states of failing to establish permanent marine patrols to stem the tide of migrants in the Mediterranean and off the western coast of Africa.
Frontex, the agency responsible for protecting Europe against illegal immigrants, is to appeal for help in the next few days to all 27 EU member countries.
The number of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa arriving on the Canary Islands rose to 31,000 last year, six times the figure of 2005, according to EU figures.
Frontex, the fledgling agency tasked with patrolling EU borders, is to write to members this week appealing for helicopters, aircraft, vessels and other equipment for marine operations.
Last summer Frontex units were described as severely overstretched and had struggled to patrol seas off the Canary Islands and Malta.
At a meeting in Dresden of EU interior and justice ministers, Mr Frattini said the equipment had to be made available by April, "otherwise it will be too late to react to the flow of migrants in the summer season which begins in April or May".
"We have to be ready for spring, no later than that," he said.
Malta and southern Italy have been inundated with thousands of migrants who arrive often penniless after paying high fees to people-traffickers for the perilous voyages on makeshift vessels. Many perish at sea trying to reach the EU.
The Portuguese interior minister, Antonio Costa, told the meeting that the wretched scenes would not be restricted to the EU's southern Mediterranean borders, but could also be repeated to the east and to the north.
He called on the new EU members of eastern Europe to develop a crisis management strategy.
Wolfgang Schäuble, the German interior minister, also called for the Frontex agency to be beefed up.
Let's hope that Europe is serious about stopping the influx of Africa's surplus population.