World

EU border agency rescue operation moved closer to Libyan waters

  • The Executive Director of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri arrives to address the media on the general migratory situation at the external borders of the EU, at Frontex offices in Brussels on Thursday, May 28, 2015.  (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

    The Executive Director of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri arrives to address the media on the general migratory situation at the external borders of the EU, at Frontex offices in Brussels on Thursday, May 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)  (The Associated Press)

  • The Executive Director of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri addresses the media on the general migratory situation at the external borders of the EU, at Frontex offices in Brussels on Thursday, May 28, 2015.  (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

    The Executive Director of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri addresses the media on the general migratory situation at the external borders of the EU, at Frontex offices in Brussels on Thursday, May 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)  (The Associated Press)

  • An Estonian mechanic checks the wings of an aircraft at the Military Airport of Kalamata town, Greece, after a Frontex flight patrol operation over the Ionian Sea, southwestern Greece on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. The border agency plans to significantly boost its presence on the Mediterranean from June to September, the high season for migrant crossings. The European Union will seek to shift the migration burden away from Italy and Greece by relocating 40,000 asylum seekers to other EU countries, according to a draft document seen by The Associated Press Tuesday. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

    An Estonian mechanic checks the wings of an aircraft at the Military Airport of Kalamata town, Greece, after a Frontex flight patrol operation over the Ionian Sea, southwestern Greece on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. The border agency plans to significantly boost its presence on the Mediterranean from June to September, the high season for migrant crossings. The European Union will seek to shift the migration burden away from Italy and Greece by relocating 40,000 asylum seekers to other EU countries, according to a draft document seen by The Associated Press Tuesday. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)  (The Associated Press)

The head of the European Union's border agency says its ships are working closer to conflict-torn Libya than ever but will enter those potentially dangerous territorial waters only to rescue migrants in trouble.

Frontex director, Fabrice Leggeri, said Thursday that the agency's patrol boats and aircraft "are approximately 80 nautical miles from the Libyan shore."

Around 75,000 migrants have been picked up trying to enter Italy and Greece from Libya so far this year. More than 1,800 are feared to have died. Most rescue emergencies happen some 40 nautical miles from Libya.

Frontex has been widely criticized for staying too close to Italy, but with new assets and a bigger budget, the agency has extended its work south to the edge of Malta's territorial waters.