BONN, Germany (CN) – The European Parliament has adopted a proposal to increase the power of Frontex, the European Union’s border patrol agency, amid an influx of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East after this year’s Arab Spring.
Based in Warsaw, Poland, the agency is set to get more equipment and personnel, and will soon begin deploying “European Border Guard Teams.”
Since its establishment in 2005, Frontex has seen a nearly continual increase in its budget, granted through the EU.
Under its new powers, member countries will have to make binding contributions to the agency’s funding.
Frontex will also have the ability to acquire and lease its own equipment, previously on loan by member countries.
Civil society actors have expressed human rights concerns over the build-up in the wake of the Arab Spring. They criticize border fortification as a response to the symptom, rather than the cause, of the illegal immigration problem.
In particular, human rights concerns focus around so-called “push-back” agreements; the treatment of apprehended migrants and conditions in which they are held; and gathering biometric data for a tracking database.
Push-back agreements involve immediate return of illegal immigrants to the countries from whence they came and may violate the principle of “non-refoulement,” or not returning immigrants to nations where they may be in danger.
The newly adopted proposal to strengthen Frontex addresses these concerns by employing a fundamental rights officer and a consultative forum on fundamental rights, to include nongovernmental organizations.
Frontex has deployed Rapid Border Intervention Teams to the border between Greece and Turkey – a non-EU member – since 2010. It says that 38,000 undocumented people crossed there in the seven months up until January 2011.