New roles for Frontex agreed by Council and Parliament - but externalised deportations excluded
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An article on this topic was originally published on 29 March 2019 and updated on 1 April 2019 with further information.
The European Parliament and the Council have agreed on new rules for Frontex - or the European Border and Coast Guard Agency as it is now formally known - including the setting up of a "standing corps" of 10,000 operational staff by 2027, executive powers for the agency's staff and the possibility for joint operations and deployments outside EU borders.
In a press release, the Commission today welcomed the agreeement as demonstrating "the right level of ambition to respond to the common challenges Europe is facing in managing migration and borders."
However, the Commission and Council had originally wanted a much higher level of "ambition", calling for the agency to be able to deport non-EU nationals from one "third country" (i.e. non-EU state) to another - for example, from Serbia to Egypt, or Macedonia to Nigeria.
Home affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos was apparently "piling on pressure for socialist and liberal EU lawmakers to accept the return measures," according to EUobserver, which would have meant that "people who have never set foot in the European Union and have had their cases reviewed by countries that are not bound by EU law, may end up being forced back to their home countries by Frontex."
The Council had argued, in a document obtained by Statewatch (pdf), that such returns would be legal under EU law if there was a "link to Union immigration and border management policy," which could have been established through "specifying the objective of such returns and the necessity of conclusion of a status agreement with a third country."
See: Non paper: Note from the Presidency on the Union competence for returns from third countries based on the arguments put forward by the Council Legal Service at the political trilogue on 12 March 2019 (pdf)
See: European Parliament: Border and Coast Guard Agency: 10,000 operational staff by 2027 (EP press release, link):
"MEPs and EU Ministers agreed on reforming the EU agency
- More support to member states for more efficient return procedures of irregular migrants
- Strengthened cooperation with non-EU countries (...)
More efficient return procedures and cooperation with non-EU countries
The updated Agency would be able to support return procedures in member states, for example by identifying irregularly staying non-EU nationals and assisting national authorities in obtaining travel documents. The new rules would also strengthen the cooperation with the EU Asylum Agency. (...)
The agreed text now needs to be formally approved by the Civil Liberties Committee, Parliament as a whole and the Council before entering into force." [emphasis added]
See also: European Border and Coast Guard: The Commission welcomes agreement on a standing corps of 10,000 border guards by 2027 (Commission press release, link):
"Today, the Council green-lighted the political agreement reached last week to reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard, giving it the right level of ambition to respond to the common challenges Europe is facing in managing migration and borders.
The centre piece of the reinforced Agency will be a standing corps of 10,000 border guards ready to support Member States at any time. The Agency will also have a stronger mandate on returns and will cooperate more closely with non-EU countries, including those beyond the EU's immediate neighbourhood. Agreed in the record time of just over 6 months, the new European Border and Coast Guard represents a step-change in the EU's ability to collectively better protect Europe's external borders."
And see: Non paper: Note from the Presidency on the Union competence for returns from third countries based on the arguments put forward by the Council Legal Service at the political trilogue on 12 March 2019 (pdf):
"Union policies cannot be achieved without the cooperation with third countries in those areas and that such cooperation with third countries is important element of the external action policy of the Union. In particular third countries sharing borders with the European Union or third countries of transit are the most concerned as they are first responsible for managing irregular migration flows into the Union. Since they are obliged to readmit irregular migrants that cross their territories, they may face acute pressure to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees." [emphasis added]
EP civil liberties committee against proposal to give Frontex powers to assist non-EU states with deportations (Statewatch News Online, 13 February 2019)
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