Frontex to feature enhanced solidarity obligations, greater human rights scrutiny

European Parliament votes on Simon Busuttil report to give Frontex greater compulsory solidarity by member states and more human rights scrutiny and accountability.

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a report by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil to strengthen the EU's external borders agency Frontex.

The vote was carried with 431 votes in favour, 49 votes against and 48 votes abstentions.

In delivering the report, Busuttil said Frontex had started in 2004 during a considerable migratory influx in the Mediterranean. “It was asked to start running before it could learn to walk,” Busuttil said.

His report's main achievement is the strengthening the border agency's effectiveness through "compulsory solidarity", which will oblige member states that commit to pool border guards and other resources to honour their pledges.

Busuttil said the main reason Frontex was not deemed to be as effective was because “member states did not deliver.”

Frontex will also be able to lease or co-own its own equipment, to allow it to engage rapidly in missions required, especially in times of emergency.

Frontex will also be granted the power to process personal data under strict conditions to speed up its work.

The operations will be subject to the scrutiny of a human rights officer within the agency itself, as well as a consultative forum on human rights. This means operations can be suspended or even terminated if violations or breaches of human rights are found.

Busuttil said return operations will also be monitored for human rights violations, and come under increased democratic scrutiny of the agency by being held increasingly accountable to parliament.

He said that European’s freedom to travel within the Schengen area depends on strong external borders. “This is where Frontex comes in. We wanted to change the law to ensure that it becomes more effective than it is today.”

He said that like a chain, Frontex can only be as strong as its weakest link.

Council member Jerzy Miller welcomed the agreement, saying that EU council has also recently and repeatedly called for the strengthening of Frontex given the recent developments on Northern Africa.

Miller said that the EU would be better able to pay better attention to member states which suffer “unexpected and disproportionate burdens on their support system.”

“The presidency has no doubt that the changes proposed will increase its operation capacity and welcomes the chance to strengthen the effectiveness of the EU’s external border control,” Miller said.

Also speaking during the plenary debate, Commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmström noted that certain member states have been exposed to considerably migratory influx, and said the EU must make sure that asylum seekers in the European Union are dealt with in a manner that conforms with EU and international human rights standards.

She said that weaknesses at the EU’s borders must be tackled, but that this responsibility primarily lies with respective member states. “We have now reached a high quality compromise that respects the various interests at play,” she noted, referring to the establishment of European Border Guard Teams.

Malmström also welcomed the recommendations towards ensuring human rights and international protection of those in need, adding that greater requirements for member states to respect their promises regarding allocated resources would allow the agency to  better plan operations and engagement.

She also described the monitoring of Frontex return operations, as well as the establishment of a consultative forum and the appointment of a fundamental rights office as a “major step forward.”

She however called attention to the fact that border control is only one aspect of the overall migration challenge that the EU faces, adding that integration is another issue that needs to be considered.

Franziska Keller (for the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance)however warned that Frontex’s human rights officer will not be independent, and how operations will cease only when grave human rights violations will take place.

“Can someone tell me where the line will be drawn?” she asked, insisting that more monitoring and scrutiny is required and said that “with the new mandate nothing is solved”.

She hit out at the complete lack of disregard for human rights during negotiations and called for a greater sensitivity of human rights to be implemented.

Hélène Flautre (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance) similarly called attention to how independent observation and impartiality of all the procedures which are used to avoid the violations of human rights are not yet in place.

Cornelia Ernst for the Confederal Group of the European United Left, called for greater risk analysis as a basis for Frontex deployment and a reason for thousands and thousands of people to be sent back.

She said the improvement does not change the fact that Frontex is “a wolf is sheep’s clothing”, saying that there are national defence bodies which can do this work, and added that it is not just a question of defence against immigration.

She said there is no such thing as an illegal immigration, and insisted that there is rather more need for a centralised humanist organisation in Africa, and a European solidarity asylum system which is still lacking.

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Paroli Paroli fil vojt. Frontex is nothing but a waste of money and resources.
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If Cornelia Ernst, Hélène Flautre, Franziska Keller are happy with illegal immigration they can take all our illegal immigrats to their countries. ** Problem solved
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ma min qed jitkellem... mal- hajbu?
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Notice all the empty seat?. Just that shows how serious the members of the gravy train take the job.
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Dr Simon Busuttil Solidarity Should first start between ourselves (the Maltese Nation) Stop threating the minorties with disrepect Stop Injustices being done with those who don't have the PN belief Stop prefering those who have the PN belief especially they don't merit it Justice for one and ALL
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Xi kanna ohra?
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Frontex can be a coastguard defending the shores of southern Europe from an invasion by illegal immigrants from farther south. It could also be a ferry service transporting illegal immigrants from Libya and Tunisia to southern Europe. If it is put under the responsibility of UNHCR or some other do-gooders it will become a ferry service. I must say that judging by the involvement of the Swede Cecilia Malmstrom Frontex is more likely to become a free ferry service.
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If Frontex is not used to push illegal immigrants boats back it will be useless s it has been and will only act as a free ferry service for illegal immigrants.