Saturday

23rd Feb 2019

EU to fortify external borders to stem migrant flow

  • Tusk: 'It is clear that the greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come' (Photo: The European Union)

The EU is forging ahead with plans to restore control of its external borders amid a refugee crisis unlike anything seen in recent history.

Among the ideas announced in the early morning of Thursday (24 September), is the establishment of EU-run quarantine centres for new asylum arrivals by the end of November and a proposal for an EU border and coast guard system by December.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Orban: 'If they don't like the fence, then we can let the migrants though to Austria and Germany'. (Photo: Freedom House)

The gathering in Brussels followed weeks of bickering between member states and tit-for-tat border and rail closures amid a massive influx of asylum seekers and refugees.

Thursday's plan is part of a larger ambition to deport people with no right to international protection after ministers earlier in the week had agreed to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece.

"We cannot continue like we did before. Without changing the current paradigm, the Schengen area will only exist in theory", EU council chief Donald Tusk told reporters.

The summit ended with a short statement and bullet-point document on actions, described by Judith Sunderland at Human Rights Watch as anti-refugee.

"Almost everything in the document is about reinforcing borders, stopping people from reaching the borders, and sending people back if they do", she said in a statement.

The document said the EU would reinforce cooperation with Turkey to stem migratory flows and that more efforts will be made to assist the Western Balkan countries.

But it also proposed providing an additional €1 billion to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the cash-strapped World Food Programme.

Tusk warned that millions of Syrians are still likely to make the journey to the EU in search of refuge.

"It is clear that greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come", he said.

The quarantine centres – also known as hotspots – will separate legitimate asylum seekers from others not entitled to international protection. People will be finger printed and registered. Rejected applicants will be returned back to their home countries.

The centres are being set up in Greece and Italy with support from the EU border agency Frontex, the European asylum support office (EASO), and the EU police agency, Europol.

But the zones have been hit with administrative and logistical delays. Frontex still needs to deploy staff to help with fingerprinting in Italy. EASO experts have also yet to be sent.

Greece has still not set up a first reception centre on the Greek island of Kos, where most asylum seekers first disembark.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the summit that Bulgaria also wants a hotspot scheme.

Merkel said that setting up fences between member states is not the solution to the problem. She added that it needs to be made clear to economic migrants that they will not get the protection they are counting on.

"We are all committed to offer sanctuary, those who are fleeing can't have a choice,” Merkel said in regard to refugees who insist on seeking asylum in Germany.

Her comments were directed towards Hungary's decision to erect a razor-wire fence on the Serb border. But Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban shot back.

"If they don't like the fence, then we can let the migrants though to Austria and Germany", he said.

Beefed up border controls

Clamping down on the EU frontier may also include shifting border controls to the EU level. Plans are in the works for the European Commission to propose in December a so-called European border and coast guard system.

This includes expanding Frontex with more personal and more money. The Commission wants 60 more posts at the Warsaw-based agency.

Tusk said EU leaders had shown little enthusiasm for the idea but had agreed to continue talks about a "possible common European policy when it comes to external borders."

The EU is also discussing €1 billion fund for Turkey for 2015 to 2016 to help with refugees. The money would go towards infrastructure support to health services and education.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be meeting with Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on 5 October.

Tusk is also set to meet Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu in New York.

Agenda

Putin steals the show This WEEK

Prospects of an EU-US-Russia alliance against Islamic State (IS) and a peace deal on Ukraine take centre stage this week.

Opinion

To help refugees, EU should tackle climate

EU leaders would do well to emulate their citizens, many of whom have welcomed refugees into Europe, as well as take stock of climate and trade policies which are push factors in the first place.

EU plans fully-fledged external border force

The EU Commission will propose a reinforced border and coast guard next week to strengthen the bloc's external border controls. It could be deployed to a member state without invitation.

News in Brief

  1. May to meet Tusk on Sunday at Arab summit
  2. Report: Russia offered Italy's Salvini €3m for EU election
  3. EU and US could 'quickly' clinch mini-trade pact
  4. Belgium to gather evidence on Syria 'foreign fighters'
  5. Dozens of Tory and Labour MPs threatening to quit over Brexit
  6. UK will struggle on free-trade deals, EU says
  7. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  8. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Brexit and Orban in spotlight This WEEK
  2. Swedish activist urges EU to double climate goals
  3. EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe
  4. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  5. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  6. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  7. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  8. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us