May, 30th 2016
This afternoon, the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament will approve the creation of a new European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) to replace Frontex. The EBCG is set out to be a stronger, more powerful Frontex that will not be subject to scrutiny by any independent authority. No independent mechanisms are foreseen to hold the agency accountable in case of human rights violations.
The LIBE committee will likely approve a version of the text which contributes to fuelling a flawed perception of migration as a threat to security, and focuses solely on border control and on stopping irregular border crossings. It ignores concerns related to the respect of human rights and saving lives and fails to address the much more urgent humanitarian situation at the EU’s external borders.
If approved, the regulation will likely allow the agency to operate return operations from one third country to another without sufficient guarantees allowing to ensure the respect of the principle of non-refoulement. This would be worsened by the imminent vote of the EU laissez-passer, which is set out to accelerate the return procedures.
In addition to its central role in the field of forced returns, the new agency will also have significantly enhanced powers in collecting and processing data thus becoming a “personal data hub” as stated by the European Data Protection Supervisor in February 2016. Despite this warning, MEPs will probably support a text in which migrants’ data may be collected and processed without the appropriate data protection guarantees.
Furthermore, the proposal for a complaints mechanism does not constitute an independent body and will not provide for a viable solution to the structural lack of accountability present in the current mandate. It seems that the EU does not want to address the serious problem of impunity – that has already been denounced many times by the Frontexit campaign and by the European Ombudsman – despite proven cases of human rights violations during the agency’s operations.
Frontexit therefore urges all MEPs to vote against the regulation today in LIBE and on July 5th in plenary: migrants are not security threats. If any agency at the border, the European Union should establish an EU search-and-rescue agency rather than reinforcing a quasi-military apparatus which puts migrants’ and refugees’ rights at risk.