The plan for the establishment of a new European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) agency, a rapid reaction pool of 1,500 border guards to be deployed in case of increased pressures on external borders, was approved by the European Parliament.
The European Parliament has approved plans to set up an EU border control system, bringing together the EU’s Frontex border agency and national border management authorities. Under these plans, national authorities will still manage their borders on a day-to-day basis but, if their EU external borders are under pressure, they will be able to seek help from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG), to rapidly deploy pooled border guard teams to those borders.
“The European Border and Coast Guard Regulation will ensure that the EU external borders are safer and better managed. This is not a silver bullet that can solve the migration crisis that the EU is facing today or fully restore trust in the Schengen area, but it is very much needed first step”, said Artis Pabriks rapporteur of the proposal, which was approved by 483 votes to 181 with 48 abstentions.
What will the objective of the new Guard be?
In order to manage migration effectively and to ensure a high level of security within the EU, The new agency will have the shared responsibility of ensuring and implementing the European integrated border management at the external borders. Its primary objectif will safeguard EU-internal freedom of movement in full respect for fundamental rights.
The new European border and coast guard will consist of national authorities responsible for border management and of an European border and coast guard agency, which would replace Frontex. Its activities will be focused on the establishment of an operational strategy for the European integrated border management and on the assistance in its implementation of all member states concerned.
In order to improve coast guard functions, better cooperation between agencies is envisaged. For this reason, the mandates of the European Fisheries Control Agency and the European Maritime Safety Agency will be aligned to the new European Border Guard.
How interventions from the new European border agency are launched?
The EBCG agency will not have its own border guards but will be able to call on a rapid reaction pool of 1,500 border guards to be nominated by Member States.
Each Member state will contribute to the creation of the guard pool by making a certain percentage of its national border guards. For those countries without land or sea external borders, the number of national border guards available to the EBCG will raise up to 3%, while for those with land or sea external borders the share would be 2%.
At the request of a member state or by Council decision, intervention teams could be temporarily deployed in case a member state is faced with increased pressures on its external border, such as disproportionate migratory pressure or cross-border crime.
Although the decision on return stays at national level, the agency will also assist Member states with returning illegally-staying non-EU nationals to their country of origin (i.e. return operations), both operationally and technically.
Nevertheless, in order to respect the non-refoulement principle, the EBCG will not organise return operations to any third country where risks of fundamental rights violations exist.
The rights of migrants and refugees is at stake, claim human rights organisations
However, the replacement of Frontex by a new coast guards and border-guards agency has raised the concern of human rights organisations, which claim that it will further jeopardise the rights of migrants and refugees.
The member organisations of the Frontexit campaign, an international campaign for the defence of migrants’ human rights at the external borders of the European Union, warn against the possible creation of this new agency, which could operate return operations from one third country to another without sufficient guarantees allowing to ensure the respect of the principle of non-refoulement.
Indeed, the proposed mandate, states the Campaign organisations, would allow the agency to facilitate the deportation of people facing a removal order issued by a State signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Concretely, it means that the EBCG agency would be empowered to remove people from Serbia or Turkey basing on a deportation order which does not match EU standards and with no guarantee that people removed will not face inhumane or degrading treatment upon arrival.
“This new mandate is a strong political signal emblematic of an obsession with security based on the rejection of foreigners and racist prejudice,” states Frontexit’s communiqué.