For more than a decade, an exclusively security-oriented approach has guided European migration policies: restrictive visa issuance, construction of walls and fences, militarized border control and forced return for refugees to their countries of origin, subcontracting migration control to undemocratic States...
During the various amendments and revisions of its mandate, Frontex has become the most financed European agency (302 million budget forecast in 2017), with a growing decision-making and deployment capacity.
The progress made in the Agency's new mandate clearly illustrates the priority given to a Europe determined to impede the right to mobility with the support of quasi-military means deployed at the external borders of the Union, Schengen area and beyond (see updated map of external cooperation).
Frontex, guard dog
The key player in these migratory closure policies is Frontex: the European Agency for the Management of Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union. Established in 2004 and based in Warsaw, the agency has an increasingly important role; which is reflected in the increase in its annual budget (€ 19 million in 2006, € 118 million in 2011, € 232 million in 2016): military means made available to it by States and its growing autonomy.
Renamed "European Border and Coast Guard Agency" after the last revision of its mandate in October 2016, Frontex gradually acquired more prerogatives. As administrator of the Eurosur satellite monitoring system, it is able to sign agreements with non-EU countries, initiate and organize joint return flights, exchange personal data with the police cooperation agency Europol, initiate land and sea border control operations, disembark people intercepted outside European territory at the risk of violating the principle of non-refoulement, to purchase its own equipment, and to deploy its officers permanently outside the EU.
The share of international migration has remained stable over the past 50 years. Not to mention that many international texts protect migrants against any violation of their fundamental rights. These rights include the right to asylum, the right to protection of personal data, and the right of everyone to leave any country, including their own.
With Frontex, Europe therefore deploys disproportionate means to fight an enemy that isn’t one: people in migration. Increasingly active within the European Union (notably in hotspots) and beyond, by means of "external cooperation", the Agency remains immune to any direct accusation despite the many elements engaging, directly or indirectly, its responsibility for the violation of Human Rights. The establishment of a complaints mechanism since October 2016 is not convincing: this internal procedure remains purely administrative and only imposes disciplinary, not criminal, sanctions for any person deployed during an operation under the direct supervision of Frontex.
Despite these inadequacies, the Agency is continuing its increasingly powerful and always opaque action on key elements of its activities, in particular the nature of the information exchanged with European and non-European countries, or the methodology for collecting analysing data. One of the main characteristics of the agency is the lack of transparency of its activities. Few people have heard of it ... What guarantees does the agency offer in terms of respect for fundamental rights in its operations? And who is responsible for any infringement of these rights during Frontex operations? Is it the agency, the state where the operation takes place, or the state of the border guards involved? These are all essential questions raised by Frontexit.
To find out more :
- Read the dossier devoted to Frontex in the magazine "Demain le monde" n ° 18 (CNCD, 2013) (in French only)
- Read the report default Frontex: which guarantees for human rights ? (7.16 MB) (Migreurop, 2010)
- Read the default Reply to the European Ombudsman's request (342 KB) (Migreurop/Statewatch, 2012)
- Discover the Frontexit awareness-raising kit
- Visit the Statewatch Observatory