The weather controls illegal border crossings over the Mediterranean

From the 15-19 February a Swedish crew took part in sixteen operations off the Lampedusa coast.

During last weekend an unusually high number of migrants arrived at the Italian island of Lampedusa. The Swedish Coast Guard and the Swedish Police were there to help relieve the Italian boarder control. Over the period of a few days the Swedish crew escorted sixteen boats into port.

In southern Europe the weather has been unstable since new year, but last weekend the sea was calmer.

Peter Johansson, Swedish Coast Guard.

– These illegal border crossings over the Mediterranean Sea are weather-dependent setups, you can't cross the sea in rough weather with migrants in boats that aren't sea-worthy. The calm weather led to a surge in crossings, from the 15-19 February the Swedish crew took part in sixteen operations off the Lampedusa coast," explains Peter Johansson from the Swedish Coast Guard. He is normally Head of Station in Örnsköldsvik but is currently working as a liaison officer as part of the Swedish contribution to the Frontex International Coordination Center, ICC, outside of Rome.

The main task is border control

Sweden has a crew with border control and marine police stationed on the Italian island of Lampedusa during the winter 2022/23. They are assigned with the task of assisting the Italian Guardia di Finanza, who are leading the work. From early morning to late at night the crew patrol an area off the island, escorting migrants to land and assisting with search and rescue operations.

- Cooperation with our Italian colleagues works well," comments Captain Johan Tholén. "We get information from the Italian authorities about the location of boats, we take ourselves there and help the migrants into the shore. We have routines for this, we work efficiently and we make a difference.

An Italian liaison officer always accompanies the Swedish crew. His duty is to keep contact with the Italian authorities. Photo: The Swedish Coast Guard.

– Both Peter Johansson and Johan Tholén have a long experience of working together with Frontex and with EU's external border control. They have had numerous foreign assignments with the Swedish Coast Guard since the migrant crisis of 2015.

We're doing a good job. The main assignment is border control. We save lives, make sure that the migrants survive and are taken care of by the Italian authorities who handle registration, interviews and investigate the migrant's possibilities for staying in the EU," says Peter Johansson as he describes the Swedish assignment.

Johan Tholén agrees.

- The thing that makes this assignment different from previous assignments is the greater distances that the migrants have to travel by sea to reach Lampedusa. You have to be really desperate to pay a huge sum of money to travel by sea for several days with eighty other people in a boat meant for eight. The whole aspect of human smuggling is something you never get used to.


EU has a common border and coast guard agency, Frontex. Their task is to coordinate work with Europe's sea, land and air borders. In this way Frontex contributes to ensuring that external borders for the member states are maintained at an effective, high and consistent level. As well as coordinating the control of Europe's external borders, Frontex also works with preventing human smuggling over the borders to Europe. The Swedish units are led by the host country's authorities and are part of operations coordinated by Frontex.

There are also Swedish personnel at the Frontex International Coordination Centre, ICC, outside of Rome. Photo: The Swedish Coast Guard

Changed 14 March 2023 16:18