Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

Frontex in dire need of border guards

  • Frontex is in desperate need of border guards and equipment to cope with the recent influx of migrants (Photo: Daniel Belenyi)

As Europe's refugee crisis intensifies, the EU border agency, Frontex, is suffering from a drastic shortage of border guards on the Greek islands, on the land border between Greece and Turkey, between Bulgaria and Turkey, and along the Hungarian border with Serbia, according to an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ).

Five months after EU leaders increased Frontex's budget by €26.8 million to cope with the refugee crisis, EU member states have not fully responded to repeated requests by Frontex for border guards and equipment to help tackle the problems on Europe's external borders.

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The revelation comes as Frontex's executive director, Fabrice Leggeri, prepares to be grilled on Tuesday (15 September) by the European Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee.

Committee chairman, Claude Moraes, to whom Frontex reports, described member states' failure to provide the agency with the necessary resources at this "critical moment" as "scandalous".

"Frontex is a crucial tool in the response to this crisis and people will therefore be astonished that despite funds being available it's not adequately resourced so that it can carry out the first-tier response," Moraes said.

Plea for help

Last April, EU heads of state signed off on the €26.8 million emergency grant at a high-level summit in what was portrayed as Europe uniting in its response to mass tragedies in the Mediterranean.

The money was supposed to allow Frontex to lease border guards and equipment from member states who would then be compensated by Frontex with the extra funds.

Last month, EU migration, home affairs and citizenship commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos wrote to all 28 interior ministers urging them to help.

But even that demand from the commissioner for migration to senior interior ministers across Europe has not delivered enough border guards and equipment.

As chaos continues to grip key migration routes, Frontex officials have admitted that they "badly need border guards on the Greek islands, border guards and technical equipment on the land border between Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria and Turkey and, crucially, along the Hungarian border with Serbia."

Offers of key personnel and equipment from member states "are still very scarce", said a Frontex spokeswoman.

Useless money

Senior Frontex officials have warned that it may even be forced to hand some of the cash back to the Commission.

Frontex's deputy director Gil Arias-Fernandez said that having the money is "useless" if it did not have the equipment to spend it on.

"This is a pity and it might imply that by the end of the year if we do not gather enough resources we will have to send the money back to Brussels," he said.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is based at City University London. It works in collaboration with other groups to get its investigations published and distributed. Over the past three months, as part of a broader examination of the refugee crisis, the Bureau has been investigating Frontex, a little-scrutinised EU institution set up to police the external borders of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area in 2005

Investigation

Frontex resource limitations put agency in straitjacket

The EU border agency has the potential to police Europe's borders, save lives and reduce human trafficking, but lack of means and political will reduces it to a resource-poor coordinating agency, says a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

EU asylum talks end in weak compromise

Interior ministers mustered a weakened political agreement to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers amid a large influx of people seeking refuge in Europe.

Frontex to get budget hike after refugee failures

Frontex, the EU's external border agency, is being given a 54 percent budget rise next year as part of a new European Commission package of initiatives to tackle the continent's refugee and migrant crisis.

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