In his latest state of the union address, the European Commission’s president, Jean Claude Juncker, emphasised the need to tackle illegal immigration. To do this, Juncker announced the EU’s plan to increase the amount of border guards sent to the European Border and Coastguard Agency, Frontex, from 1,600 to 11,600. The plan signifies a marked upgrade and substantial increase for the Frontex border force.
This corroborates with the overall plan to reinforce the new European Union Agency for Asylum, which will be replacing the European Asylum Support Office. The move thus allows for a stronger, cohesive and cooperative relationship between the European Union Agency for Asylum and Frontex.
“The guards will be tasked to protect ‘the union external borders, prevent secondary movements [between EU countries] and significantly step up the effective return of irregular migrants’” (Peel, Barker, and Khan, 2018). This announcement follows “a renewed sense of crisis over migration”(Peel, Barker, and Khan, 2018), following rising concerns over anti-establishment protests across Europe. Such protests cannot be taken lightly.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel highlighted this, stating how “illegal migration poses a greater threat to the cohesion of the European Union than the eurozone crisis.” (BBC News, 2018).
Uncontrolled migration threatens not only the unity of the European Union, but also one of the key achievements of the EU; the Schengen system. Reform of the European asylum policy as a whole has become necessary. Particularly, there is a need for complex reforms and adjustments of the Dublin regulation (Lehne, 2018). With these plans, the EU seems to be showing a “toughening approach to migration” (Peel, Barker, and Khan, 2018).
Although countries which have an external border are tasked with their own border control, Frontex is used to provide additional support. It contributes to border control by analysis, research, joint operations, rapid response in case of extreme pressure at external borders in the Schengen zone and by training border guards and border authorities. The Agency deploys technical equipment like boats and specially-trained border staff. It also coordinates maritime operations in the Mediterranean Sea in Spain, Italy and Greece. Land borders are also under the remit of Frontex, such as in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and Slovakia. It also provides support at international airports across Europe. The Agencies operations are focused not only on unlawful immigration, but also on the identification and registration of individuals, search and rescue missions, and prevention against the smuggling of drugs, stolen cars and weapons. Though Frontex has faced substantial criticism, the organisation is steadily increasing. One issue the Agency faces, however, is multiple conflicts of interests. Frontex deals with the sensitive issue of refugee protection versus border protection; a topic which continues to remain pivotal today (Gerson, 2018).
In 2015, Europe experienced the biggest influx of migrants, and refugees, since the end of the second world war, a trend which continued into 2016. The number of migrants has gone down since the peak of the crisis, but migration is still one of the main security concerns for Europe. Migration continues to cause tension between European leaders and nations. With indications that the immigration numbers will increase in the future, they continue to try and find a common way to tackle this issue (Henley, 2018).
Several push factors are attributed to the current political moves within the European Union, including the ongoing wars and military conflicts in Middle-East and Africa, such as in Syria, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan. Further, one of the crucial issues is the current population development throughout the world. African countries have the fastest rising population in the world, whilst continuing to have one of the lowest GDP’s (Africa Population 2018, 2018). Another major cause for concern is the ongoing effects and consequences attributed to climate change, leading to additional push factors, as areas become uninhabitable (Climate-Exodus, 2018).
To improve the present return procedure for unsuccessful migration, the EU is looking to standardise European travel documents. This is due to the current lack of formal documents causing the inadequate return of migrants. Further, the EU is proposing the introduction of a common list of safe countries of origin. Currently, the lists vary from country to country. The Eu continues to move towards identifying the root causes of migration; the various push factors discussed above, and how these can be ameliorated (European Parliament News, 2018).
(2018) “Juncker: EU will send additional 10,000 guards to borders”, BBC News. (Accessed 5th of October 2018 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45492746)
(2018) Michael Peel, Alex Barker and Mehreen Khan, “EU plans 10,000-strong border force to tackle migration”, Financial Times. (Accessed 5th of October 2018 https://www.ft.com/content/d5806e9e-b421-11e8-bbc3-ccd7de085ffe)
(2018) “EU border controls and managing migration”, European Parliament News. (Accessed 8th of October 2018 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20170627STO78419/eu-border-controls-and-managing-migration )
(2017) “Africa Population 2018”, World Population Review. (Accessed 9th October 2018)http://worldpopulationreview.com/continents/africa-population/
(2018) “Climate-Exodus Expected in the Middle East and North Africa” The Cyprus Institute. (Accessed 9th October 2018)https://www.cyi.ac.cy/index.php/in-focus/climate-exodus-expected-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa.html
(2018) John Henley, “What is the current state of the migration crisis in Europe?” Guardian News. (Accessed 9th of October 2018) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/15/what-current-scale-migration-crisis-europe-future-outlook
(2018) Oliver Harry Gerson, “Coast guard or paramilitary force?” dandc (Accessed 9th October 2018)https://www.dandc.eu/en/article/european-border-and-coast-guard-agency-frontex-controversial)
(2018) Stefan Lehne, “The EU Remains Unprepared for the Next Migration Crisis” Carnegie Europe. (Accessed 9th October 2018)