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27th Jun 2022

EU agrees rapid reaction anti-immigration units

  • Thousands are dying each year trying to get into Europe from Africa (Photo: AFM)

In an effort to cut the numbers of illegal migrants arriving to Europe by sea, EU interior ministers have given the green light to setting up a rapidly deployable force of border guards which would assist countries facing an immigration emergency.

"It is the best ever example of European solidarity," EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said after the deal on the so-called rapid border intervention teams was struck on Friday (20 April).

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The rapid border intervention teams – operational under the EU's external borders agency, Frontex - are foreseen as a pool of some 450 national experts, made available at short notice of up to five working days to any member state whose borders are under "urgent and exceptional" strain by illegal migration.

Under the deal, all 27 capitals will be required to contribute to the EU teams.

The prime goal is to combat illegal immigration in the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastal area, after last year saw an unprecedented amount of Africans taking the perilous trip, crammed together in small fishing boats, in search of a better life in Europe.

More than 31,000 illegal immigrants reached Spanish territory in 2006 - six times more than in 2005 – while Italy and Malta were also heavily targeted. Thousands are feared to have been lost at sea.

The idea of special EU teams already received the backing from the European Parliament's committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs on 11 April. The parliament is expected to give its final blessing during this week's plenary session in Strasbourg.

In addition, Frontex is to set in motion a permanent coast patrols network for the EU's southern sea borders amid fears that favourable weather could make 2007 another record year in terms of sea-borne migration.

The patrols will begin work in late May to define and monitor flashpoint areas for illegal attempts to enter Europe.

"We have succeeded in making another important step to protect the common external sea frontiers in the south," German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble said in response to the announcement, adding "this mechanism is a vital measure to counter illegal migration at the external sea borders jointly and in a coordinated manner."

According to EU commissioner Frattini, Frontex - created in 2005 to co-ordinate EU border security – now has at its disposal over 20 air planes, almost 30 helicopters and far more than 100 vessels as well as a variety of other equipment.

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