Centerpiece of the future European Migration Pact, the Frontex agency is the focus of all the attention of both human rights defenders and technocrats. In the space of just a few months, this body in charge of controlling the EU’s external borders has in turn been the target of European Parliament and anti-fraud investigations, after being accused of illegal refoulement by NGOs. and sued by two asylum seekers for violence.
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And now the organization has been scrutinized by the European Court of Auditors. The latter does not judge her “Not sufficiently effective” to carry out the mandate entrusted to him, according to a report presented on Monday, June 7.
To conduct their investigation, the auditors traveled to Italy and Poland, where the agency’s headquarters are located, and sent a detailed questionnaire to the other 25 Member States. Their conclusions, which are limited to the finances and operation of the agency, are scathing. “Frontex’s missions at the EU’s external borders are essential in the fight against cross-border crime and illegal immigration”, asks the person in charge of the report Leo Brincat beforehand, before dropping his verdict. “However, at the present time, the agency is not doing this effectively. This is particularly worrying as she is being given increased responsibilities ”.
Frontex, under a mandate assigned in 2019, must indeed set up a permanent contingent of 10,000 border guards by 2027, for an annual budget of 900 million euros on average (almost doubled compared to to 460 million euros in 2020). In the report, Member States fear that the massive recruitments to come will siphon off their national workforce.
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The agency’s finances had already jumped from 93 million to 233 million euros between 2014 and 2016, in response to the migration crisis of 2015. However, the needs now seem less pressing. In 2020, asylum applications fell by a third in Europe, while arrivals without a residence permit fell by 13%.
What exactly is Frontex criticized for? First of all, the agency would have grown up without a real backbone. “The expansion of Frontex was not conceived according to technical considerations, but according to a political decision”, summarizes Leo Brincat. The report points to “Gaps” concerning both border monitoring, risk analysis, border vulnerability assessments and operational response.
The agency would now devote 80% of the budget of its joint operations with the Member States to maritime interventions. But the agency would not have the real-time information necessary to intervene effectively, contrary to what the 2016 regulation provides. Indeed, Member States would not play the game. “Only a minority of them voluntarily report events at border crossing points”, deplores the report. Conversely, Frontex offers Member States a dashboard that is more like a patchwork of national data.
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That’s not all. Contrary to what the regulations require, Frontex “Does not carry out a solid evaluation of its activities”. Border surveillance is not framed by any standard concerning the equipment used. The agency is finally singled out for its relative opacity. It “Does not provide information on the real cost of its joint operations, neither aggregated nor broken down by operations (maritime and air) and by type of cost (human resources, light equipment or heavy equipment, etc.)”, regret the rapporteurs. Frontex is only required to deliver these detailed data after two years. The European Court of Auditors recommends that the European Commission correct all of these shortcomings by 2022.