Monday, September 21, 2015

Europe's outer borders should be collectively patrolled.
When we observe how Europe is dealing with the migrant crisis, it is evident that EU member states are coming to a breaking point and often at odds wit each other.

During the weekend, we have witnessed a spat between countries in the new refugee frontier; Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary.

But sadly, this is not the first time that's happening. Last week, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban blamed Greece for the refugee crisis in his country, adding that the EU needs to deploy forces to Greece’s borders.

“If Greece is not capable of protecting its borders, we need to mobilize European forces to the Greek borders so that they can achieve the goals of European law instead of the Greek authorities," Orban said. 

He did not elaborate on how exactly such a plan will turn into real life, but he proved that he has probably never heard of FRONTEX, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union. (Keep Talking Greece)

Although his antics may seem out of sync with the rest of Europe, he is right in this case. Frontex may well exist for a number of years now, dealing with illegal migrants in Europe's borders; but they never had to face such scale of arrivals before.

One would have thought that ever since the crisis begun, the organization would be boosted with new recruits and funds, to deal with the increase of refugees entering Europe's outer borders. But such action did not take place, at least not yet.

In April, a Frontex report published the results of annual negotiations it has with member states over border staff and equipment.

The report shows shortages of Frontex-requested border staff ranging from 4% to 20% in various roles including first line officers and interview experts.

The cumbersome manner in which Frontex has to negotiate and persuade countries to lend equipment many months in advance has had an impact on operations during the summer’s crises.

The inflexibility causes Frontex difficulties ensuring continuity in its emergency operations: member states have been lending equipment for only single months at a time. It means Frontex is often scrambling around for new resources from around Europe every month.

So much so that Frontex relies in part on Iceland, a non-EU country which the agency says has lent more than a third of its entire coast guard fleet to help in Greece and Italy. Norway, another non-EU country, has been similarly co-operative.

Each member state has the sufficient capacity to handle border control, but when the migratory pressure becomes exceptionally high, they might require additional assistance of either technical equipment or specialized border guards.

The role of Frontex is to coordinate the deployment of such additional assets and human resources from other EU/Schengen Area countries, as described in its founding regulation.

As chaos continues to grip key migration routes, Frontex officials have admitted to the Bureau it “badly need(s) border guards on the Greek islands, border guards and technical equipment on the land border between Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria and Turkey and, crucially along the Hungarian border with Serbia.”

The Bureau has also learned that despite more than two million refugees amassing in Turkey and planning their dangerous trips across the borders, Frontex has not had a single member of staff based there gathering intelligence about smugglers. (EU Observer)

From the above report it is obvious that Europe is failing again in protecting its own borders. Each state government prefers to either push the responsibility to its neighbors, the countries of entry, or the rich destination nations, but they are avoiding doing the obvious; cooperating in a pan-European effort to tackle the crisis.

If European politicians want to control their nation's borders, they got to understand that primarily it is in their interests to shield the outer borders of Europe, at the entry points.

Instead of bickering and trying to shift responsibility, they should first of all utilize what they have already set up; an agency with a particular task in minding Europe's common borders, like Frontex.

That naturally means, increasing the funding and supplying it with all necessary resources, plus recruiting individuals to work for the agency.

We got huge unemployment ravaging Europe's youths, why don't we start employing people to work where they are needed the most nowadays?

Unemployed people could apply to be assigned for paid work for a season, a year or more-event permanently on a Greek island, southern Italy, Malta, Bulgaria, Hungary and so on.

In addition, as the report suggests, people could be employed directly in refugee camps in Turkey or Lebanon, where a large number of refugees arriving in Europe are coming from.

In this way, we could control who enters our continent, plus we could have already their documents and identity, before they hand them out to smugglers, arriving illegally in our continent. If there is a way to avoid alleged ISIS fighters entering Europe, perhaps this is one.

Our leaders were hiding their heads in the sand for too long, being preoccupied by the economic crisis and Greece. They hoped that this humanitarian urgency would never knock our door.

Now that they were proven wrong and people are arriving in their hundreds of thousands, they still rush to protect their borders and blame their EU partners, than take action and responsibility.

This crisis once again affects all EU states, so the solution must be achieved in absolute coordination, cooperation and participation by all the union's members.

We should support Frontex and if needed, send additional forces and officers in the entry points on Europe's borders. Furthermore we could assist countries like Turkey and Lebanon by sending them resources, plus officers to encourage legal migration into Europe, discouraging illegal one.

We must understand that since we have opened our borders, the only way forward and to deal with this challenge is to act united and unanimously.

We can not bow to the pressure from nationalist and conservative parties, which take advantage from this situation to achieve their goal; raising the internal borders in Europe again. 

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