Saturday

21st Apr 2018

Shooting revelations clouds EU border guard launch

  • Frontex has helped rescue thousands of people but has also been accused of using deadly force to stop smugglers (Photo: Frontex)

The EU inaugurated the launch of the new border and coastguard agency on Thursday (6 October), amid revelations that border forces routinely used firearms against migrants off Greece in 2014 and 2015.

The new agency, called the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, replaces Frontex, and is a precipitous policy response to last year's large inflow of refugees and broader security issues.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"It is a lesson learned from last year," Fabrice Leggeri, the agency's chief, said at a ceremony on Thursday at a checkpoint on the Bulgaria and Turkey border.

But reports of the deaths and injuries of refugees aboard boats steered by smugglers under Frontex-led operations are raising tricky questions.

On 23 September, EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly and Nils Muiznieks from the human rights watchdog Council of Europe were cc'd in a letter to Frontex that demanded answers over the shooting incidents.

The letter, signed by 42 MEPs, asks if the new agency will continue to use firearms against boats carrying refugees.

"Who takes the decision and/or the responsibility on the Frontex ships to shoot boats carrying refugees: the ship captain, Frontex headquarters on land, or member states’ coastal guards on land," it says.

First reported by The Intercept, the allegations are based on unredacted Frontex documents, which offer a detailed account of the incidents including the shooting death of a minor.

Frontex in late August said a 17-year old was killed after the skipper of the yacht attacked Greek officers who had boarded the vessel following The Intercept report.

Leggeri, in a response to the MEP letter on 29 September, said that in half of the incidents reported, weapons were shot in the air with no possible harm to anyone.

In the remaining cases, he noted that shots were fired "upon attempts by the facilitators [smugglers] to violently ram the patrol vessel, putting in danger the lives of migrants and of the persons on board the patrolling vessel".

Frontex reloaded

Spooked by the some 1 million people that crossed through the Western Balkans to reach EU states, legislators rushed to transform Frontex into a more autonomous agency capable of deploying 1,500 border guards at a moment's notice.

The pool of guards will be made available before the end of the year.

The agency will oversee border control, sea rescue operations and the kicking out of rejected asylum seekers. But it will also offer operational support to countries outside the EU and share intelligence on cross-border criminal investigations.

"It also has a key role at Europe’s maritime borders through its new coast guard functions," said Leggeri in a press statement.

More money, more equipment

Warsaw-based Frontex has seen its budget and staffing numbers increase dramatically over the past few years.

The agency's budget was hiked by more than 75 percent this year to around €250 million, when compared with last year. It had already been increased three times in 2015.

Under its new mandate, the agency will be able to lease its own equipment instead of having to exclusively rely on member states.

Its powers also extend to telling EU states how to best secure their outside borders, a touchy area for national authorities, at the risk of imposing internal border controls for up to six months should they fail to comply.

Five EU states have so far volunteered to undergo the agency's stress tests to assess possible external border gaps. Initial results are expect early next year.

This article was updated on 6 October at 15:00 to include Leggeri's response to the MEPs

EU border agency highlights terrorist threat

Frontex, the EU border control agency, has called for more access to security data after warning that terrorists could use the migratory route to infiltrate Europe.

EU states to undergo border stress tests

The European boarder and coast guard agency will carry out border tests in Finland, Germany, and Slovenia before launching probes for all EU states next year.

Interview

Spanish NGO boat bosses face jail for rescuing Libya refugees

Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms had its rescue boat seized by Italian authorities in Sicily earlier this month. Three employees have been accused of migrant trafficking and face up to 15 years in jail and huge fines.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

Opinion

Calling time on European-Turkish strategic relations

With an Erdogan-Putin summit on Tuesday, joined by Iran on Wednesday, it is time for Europe to face facts - Turkey's ties with the West are no longer strategic. When Europe goes hither, Turkey deliberately goes thither.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights