EU unveils plans for new border agency to address refugee influx
Migrants stranded in Greece walk behind banners at their temporary shelter at the former Olympic Hall in the southern suburbs of Athens on December 15, 2015. (AFP/Louisa Gouliamaki)
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The EU unveiled plans for a new European border agency on Tuesday in the wake of the refugee crisis and the security implications of the Paris attacks.
The new agency - dubbed the European Border and Coast Guard - will have more resources and greater powers than Frontex, the current EU-wide border force.
These include the authority to deploy teams to trouble spots “even when a member state is unable or unwilling to take the necessary measures”, according to a statement from the European Commission.
The new agency will work alongside member states’ border control services and even non-EU border teams, according to the proposals.
It will also have a stronger role in returning “illegally staying third country nationals”.
The announcement comes after a year that has seen the greatest movement of people across Europe since World War II with Frontex reporting 1.55 million arrivals in the first 11 months of 2015.
The attacks in Paris also raised concerns about the apparent ease with which some of the attackers crossed Europe. The Nov. 13 attacks saw 130 people killed by gunmen, including EU nationals who had returned from Syria.
“In an area of free movement without internal borders, managing Europe’s external borders must be a shared responsibility,” Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in the statement.
“The crisis has exposed clear weaknesses and gaps in existing mechanisms aimed at making sure that EU standards are upheld.”
The plan also calls for checks on EU nationals on the borders of Europe to boost security.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the commissioner for migration, said: “The current migration and security challenges know no borders and require a truly European approach.”
The agency will have at least 1,500 experts that can be deployed in less than three days using equipment provided by member states. By 2020, it will have 1,000 permanent staff - more than double the levels of Frontex.
However, the plans have raised concerns among human rights groups. Amnesty International said the protection of EU borders should not come at the expense of refugees’ rights to protection. Iverna McGowan, acting director of Amnesty’s European office, said a “serious accountability gap” for human rights violations existed at EU borders.
The proposals will be discussed by European leaders when they gather in Brussels on Thursday.
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