Frontex, poison or antidote to the tragedies in the Mediterranean?

Brussels, 23 February 2015

As Malta receives millions of Euros to fund maritime border control operations in collaboration with Frontex, members of the FRONTEXIT campaign denounce the security obsession blinding Europe and leading to increasing numbers of deaths.

On 4 February, the European Union announced that more than 12 million Euros had been granted to the Maltese armed forces in order to finance the purchase of equipment to be used for operations coordinated by Frontex (the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders). This grant comes from the EU Internal Security Fund, established to fight crime and deal with threats to EU security, and comes in addition to the 114 million Euros allocated to Frontex in 2015.

This decision illustrates once again the gulf between the urgency of the situation at Europe’s maritime borders and the focus of the EU’s priorities in this area. Following a macabre record of more than 3,500 deaths in 2014, the slaughter continues in the Mediterranean, with several hundred deaths since the beginning of the year, in particular off the coast of Lampedusa.

In this context it is shameful that the EU’s reactions focus on strengthening mechanisms which, contrary to claims, do not aim to save human lives but to intercept and control (Frontex, Eurosur, cooperation on migration with neighbouring states).

Controlling is not saving lives

The Frontexit campaign underlines that Frontex is a border surveillance agency, not a maritime rescue body. Operation Triton, coordinated by Frontex in Italy, is not the continuation of the Italian military and humanitarian operation Mare Nostrum. It is yet another border control operation to prevent migrants reaching Europe’s shores. Yet, under international maritime law, the boats participating in Frontex’s activities have the same obligations as any other vessel, to provide assistance to persons in distress.

The EU and its member states claim to be powerless in the face of these human tragedies, as if they were inevitable. This is a fallacy. Such tragedies are the consequence of security-based migration policies which make regular access to EU territory almost impossible and leave persons in exile no solution other than to embark on perilous boats and risk their lives.

The organisations of the FRONTEXIT campaign, which calls for the suppression of the Frontex agency, demand immediate measures to be taken to interrupt Frontex’s maritime operations, which share responsibility for the repeated tragedies in the Mediterranean. In order to stop the slaughter, the rationale must be reversed and measures must be taken to allow international mobility and access to EU territory and to guarantee international protection obligations.

Europe is at war against an imaginary enemy