EU border agency Frontex spends a significant amount of time and money on its public image, and insists that its activities are fully transparent. However, that public image is - unsurprisingly - heavy on spin, and panders to far-right narratives. Meanwhile, its commitment to transparency is questionable - to say the least.
The second part of an analysis looking at the legal firewalls that create blurred responsibilities in cases of search and rescue and pushbacks, shielding EU border agency Frontex from accountability measures.
The first in a four-part series looking into the activities and operations of EU border agency Frontex, examining the evolution of the agency’s search and rescue obligations since it was founded in 2004. Many organisations have warned that “protecting borders” may conflict with “protecting lives” and experience suggests that, what are presented as two distinct objectives are, more often than not, part of conflicting policy agendas. The controversial and deadly practices that have been brought into the spotlight by the Aegean allegations are ultimately the result of political decisions that highlight the dubious priorities of the EU, its member states and its agents – Frontex included.
An increasing number of reports of violent pushbacks at the Greek-Macedonian border have been collected by volunteers in recent years. Some reports allege the presence of Frontex, but bilateral policing deals in place may also explain the presence of foreign officers in Macedonia. The violence underpins a long-standing plan to close the ‘Balkan Route’ and keep people out of ‘core’ EU territory. Whoever is behind the violence, there is no shortage of border guards to mete it out – but justice is in short supply.
In line with concerning recent EU border control proposals, a deliberate policy of inhumane detention, illegal mobility restrictions and an overreliance on deportation ‘solutions’ is converting the Canary Islands into makeshift deportation waiting rooms and a black hole for human rights.
The development of a system for collecting data on people on the move in the Balkans highlights the overall orientation of the EU's migration policies: outsourcing migration management at all costs, to the detriment of provisions for reception. In order to keep those considered as "undesirable" at a distance, would the European Union go so far as to extend beyond its borders the ‘Dublin’ mechanism for allocating state responsibility for asylum claims, at the risk of further aggravating the rights violations along the Balkan route?
The EU institutions have approved a revised 'Blue Card Directive', which sets out rules on the migration of highly-skilled non-EU migrants. Steve Peers, Professor of Law at the University of Essex, explains the new rules and their possible effects.
The growing use of drones and other long-range, increasingly-automated forms of surveillance and data collection are part of the militarisation of Europe’s borders in the Mediterranean, which have led to thousands of unnecessary deaths and push- and pull-backs to Libya, where migrants and refugees face arbitrary detention, violence, mistreatment and torture. This article, by the journalist Antonio Mazzeo, chronicles investments into and tests and deployments of drone technology by EU and national agencies in the Mediterranean.
Since 2020, the EU has been able to use its visa policy as “leverage to improve cooperation with third countries on return and readmission,” as part of the drive to increase deportations. Non-EU states can be threatened with visa restrictions for their nationals if they are not deemed to cooperate sufficiently with the readmission process. A recent European Commission document, published here, sets out the perceived level of cooperation by those non-EU states. The Council is now considering potential next steps to ensure compliance with EU migration policies.
Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is currently under heavy scrutiny from multiple angles, including the European Parliament, the EU Ombudsman, and the European Anti-Fraud Office. At the same time, judicial action has been initiated vis-à-vis the agency.
The EU has negotiated five agreements with states in the Balkans that allow Frontex operations on their territories, and most of the agreements have now been approved by both sides. This briefing looks at the main provisions of those agreements, highlights key differences and similarities, and argues that they will likely serve as a template for future deals with states that do not border the EU, as made possible by the 2019 Regulation governing Frontex.
Submission by Statewatch to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
The burning of Moria camp seemed like an exceptional tragedy. But this event and the EU response to it reflect a decades-long policy approach. As long as securitization remains the guiding principle of EU migration policy, the calls of Moria will remain unanswered.
An article produced for the Migration Control project, providing a critical overview of the role, powers and activities of EU border agency Frontex, from 2004 to the present.
In 2014, Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership to the EU. The country is aiming to approximate its domestic law with the EU legal 'acquis' within the next two years, prompting big changes in the country's immigration and asylum system - at least on paper. Currently, those systems cannot be said to meet fundamental rights or EU legal standards, but given conditions within the EU itself - notably in Greece - it remains to be seen whether this will be a barrier to Albania joining the bloc.
The arrival of 15,000 people in the Canary Islands has led to what is by now the customary response from the EU and its member states: reinforce control measures, step up deportations and accommodate people in unsuitable and unsanitary conditions. It seems that little has been learned from the humanitarian disasters in states such as Italy and Greece. Until the EU introduces humane migration policies and addresses the political economy underlying migration from countries such as Senegal, those disasters seem likely to be repeated.
An EU military operation is assisting the Libyan Coast Guard in ‘pull-backs’ of people trying to cross the Mediterranean, by providing information on the location of boats in distress. Despite admitting that Libya is not a safe country in which to disembark people, the EU argues that it is acting according to international law. Legal experts say otherwise, but given the complex legal structure of EU security and defence missions, holding anyone accountable for this assistance with ‘pull-backs’ may prove difficult.
Border controls are big business - for the companies supplying the fences, technology and equipment used to put them in place, and for the smugglers who seek to circumvent them, argues Ana González-Paramo.
Professor Steve Peers (Law School, University of Essex) gives an overview of the proposals published as part of the EU's new Pact on Migration and Asylum.
Deportation Union provides a critical examination of recently-introduced and forthcoming EU measures designed to increase the number of deportations carried out by national authorities and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. It focuses on three key areas: attempts to reduce or eliminate rights and protections in the law governing deportations; the expansion and interconnection of EU databases and information systems; and the increased budget, powers and personnel awarded to Frontex.
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