The European Parliament, Commission and Council agreed on June 21 to establish the European Border and Coast Guard. The new agency, which will be an expanded version of the current Frontex agency, is the latest move to deal with the migrant crisis in Europe.
Klaas Dijkhoff, Minister for Migration of the Netherlands and President of the Council welcomed the agreement.
"We urgently need an European Border and Coast Guard to strengthen our joined external borders in a structural way," said Dijkhoff. "With better border controls we have more control over migration streams and we enlarge the safety of our citizens. I’m satisfied that the member states and the European Parliament have made an effort to make sure that the European Border and Coast Guard can start as soon as possible."
The primary objective of the European Border and Coast Guard will be to ensure and implement, as a shared responsibility, the European integrated border management strategy at the external borders with a view to managing migration effectively and ensuring a high level of security within the EU, while safeguarding EU-internal free movement and fully respecting fundamental rights.
It will consist of the European Border and Coast guard agency itself (the current Frontex agency with expanded tasks) and national authorities responsible for border management. The renewed agency will focus its activities on the establishment of an operational strategy for the European integrated border management strategy and on assisting in its implementation by all member states concerned.
A rapid reserve pool of at least 1500 border guards will be established to support each individual country’s own border guard personnel. The guards could be deployed in any country whose external borders come under pressure from large numbers of migrants, even if the authorities of the country in question reject it. In cases where authorities fail to cooperate with the guards, they could face closure of their Schengen borders.
The agency’s tasks will also include: assisting the Commission in the coordination of migration management support teams when a member state faces disproportionate migratory pressures in hotspot areas of their external border; ensuring the practical execution of measures in case of a situation requiring urgent action at the external borders; and providing technical and operational assistance in the support of search and rescue operations for persons in distress at sea which may arise during border surveillance operations at sea.
To enable the agency to carry out its tasks, its planned budget for 2017 is €281 million, and this is expected to reach €322 million (about US $350 million) in 2020. The staff of the agency would gradually increase from 402 members in 2016 to 1,000 by 2020.
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.
Many migrants attempt to enter Europe legally, but others are tempted by the promises provided by migrant smuggling networks. Between January and June 2016, the European police agency Europol received intelligence on more than 7000 newly-identified migrant smuggling suspects. 95 percent of them are male, with an average age of 36.
Recent data also shows that migrant smuggling remains an increasingly profitable business for criminals, with the prices for migrant smuggling having tripled. These are only a few of the most recent trends perceived by Europol and published today.
At the end of last summer, migrants were paying between EUR 2000 and 5000 for their travel from the country of origin to a final destination country in the EU. Nowadays, prices have increased significantly, with migrants paying up to EUR 3000 for just one part of the journey, such as from the country of origin to the EU entry country. More then needs to be paid for the next part of the journey.
One of the consequences is that the overall time between leaving the country of origin and arriving in the country of destination is longer. Last year, the trips were sometimes completed in one to two weeks; now a journey can last for months. An increase in pressure on secondary movement routes is expected.
Another indication, and a possible explanation for the above, is the increase in labor exploitation; migrants may be forced to work to pay their large debts with the smugglers. Recent figures show that, while in 2015 0.2 percent of migrants declared that they had to work to pay back smugglers, this rose to 5 percent in 2016.
Europol and its European Migrant Smuggling Centre currently has 42 experts and analysts providing operational and analytical support to the EU Member States fighting migrant smuggling. Together they have so far supported 55 high-level investigations. Europol experts are currently deployed at the hotspots in Greece and Italy and 200 guest officers have been nominated.