JHA-EU: the unrestrained race to strengthen Frontex at the expense of fundamental rights

On 12 October, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss the new reform proposal of Frontex, the European Coast Guard and Border Guard Agency, two years after the last revision of the mandate in 2016. Regardless of the criticisms concerning rights violations inherent in its activities, the agency is in the process of acquiring executive powers as well as gaining an increased role in deporting migrants from Member States and non-European countries.

The Frontexit collective reiterates its very strong concerns about this new reform and calls on the Member States and members of European Parliament to reject this legislative race, which symbolises the obsession with border control to the detriment of the rights of migrants.

The European Commission proposes to increase Frontex’s staff to 10,000 by 2020 and its budget to 1.3 billion for the period 2019/2020, an increase of more than 6000 % in the estimated budget in just 12 years. The agency will play a central and unprecedented role in the preparation of return decisions from Member States and in the conduct of deportations between/from ‘third’ countries without clear prerogatives.

Faced with the doubling of the number of people expelled by the EU between 2015 and 2017, given the weak or non-existent political control mechanisms (no activities outside the EU are under the control of the European Parliament) and the ineffective responses to rights violations, this reform will be yet another danger to the already few rights of migrants.

The EU is continuing a frantic race to strengthen Frontex while no impact assessment of its current activities on fundamental rights has been carried out. It is urgent that Members of the European Parliament exercise control over Frontex’s activities including those conducted outside of the EU (e.g. growing deployment of the agency in Africa), over the arsenal at its disposal (notably EUROSUR) as well as assess their human rights impact.

There is no tangible justification for this repeated revision of the mandate, other than what the EU says - the urgency of the situation. However, this emergency does not exist (the number of arrivals has been slashed in five since 2015 according to IOM), nor does the so-called "migration crisis". The collapse in the number of arrivals is directly attributable to the increase in border security arrangements and unlimited cooperation with countries where rights violations are widespread.

Frontex, keen to describe Tunisian fishermen who save lives as "smugglers", and eager to collaborate and even provide training to States where violations of rights are documented, is the image of a Europe sinking into an ever more security logic to the detriment of the rights of exiles and even of the people supporting them

This border closure is also a threat to the respect for the rights of people forced to exercise their right to leave any country using increasingly dangerous routes.

Europe is at war with an imaginary enemy