Europes borders in Africa: Beyond the fence

The EU is transforming Frontex into a full-service agency. It is working with shady governments.

Viele Flüchtlinge in Decken

Migrants after disembarking from the Norwegian vessel Siem Pilot at Pozzallo's harbour, Italy Foto: reuters

There is almost everything on the ship of Pal Erik Teigen: a freezer container for corpses, a play room with a cinema screen, and a giant deck with sun protection, which can seat over 1,100 people when teigens pull them out of the water. Today, however, it is raining, it is a gloomy afternoon, in the middle of November, in the port of Catania in Sicily, and the „Siem Pilot“, the huge signal-red flagship of the EU border guard agency Frontex, lies on the quayside and takes its new crew members on board.

Actually, the „Siem Pilot“ is a provider of oil drilling rigs in the North Sea. Since June 2015, it has been Norway's most important contribution to tackling the refugee crisis. The government in Oslo chartered the ship and paid for the crew of 15, as well as eleven Norwegian policemen, ten soldiers and six coastal guards.

For the fourth time, dough is here, as commander. „It was more violent than all the years before the police before,“ he says. „Sometimes 2,000, then 7,000 come, in between it is quiet for a few weeks.“ 28,598 live and 91 deaths took the „Siempilot“ on board in Frontex and brought to Italy. Most of them have been taken over by private NGOs crossing the Libyan coast. Frontex does not.

The „Siem Pilot“ saves people. But that is not the reason why she is here. It is no coincidence that the ship is commanded by a policeman. Refuge boats are cops for them. Tactics of human smuggling. Teigen's real mission is the fight against tugs. Policing.

Frontex is approaching the refugees

Die „Siem Pilot“ nimmt Schiffbrüchige an Bord. Für die Crew sind Flüchtlingsboote Tatorte. Tatorte von Menschenschmuggel.

Teigens men and women are on the „Siem Pilot“ to find among thousands of refugees and migrants those who operate the crossings as a criminal business. On the trips to the mainland, to the safe harbor, they watch the rescued, photograph and question them, evaluate mobile phones, investigate corpses in a separate forensic department, take DNA samples. 300 „Persons of interest“, suspects, have so far handed over to the Italian police.

The people on board are the first point on which people can start. Beyond the sea, where the tugboats are doing their business, they have no access, not even reliable contact with the coast guard. „Nothing works. When we get to Libya, we have to look for danger with binoculars.“

This is only partly true. In fact, the agency, newly constituted in September as the European Agency for Border and Coast Guard, has long since extended its bulbs to Africa. Even now she is not forced to look through the binoculars to find out what is going on.Border protection today has less to do with guarding a fence on its own territory, but more and more by being active in distant countries. Frontex is approaching the refugees.

With 18 states around the world, Frontex has working arrangements. Including countries in Eastern Europe, USA, Canada, Cape Verde and Nigeria. But negotiations are underway for further agreements: with Libya, Morocco, Senegal, Mauritania, Egypt and Tunisia. „North Africa is our most important focus for new cooperations,“ confirms Frontex.

At the table with African secretaries

At the informal level, Frontex has also been cooperating with some of these countries, including Morocco, Senegal and Libya. A liaison officer is to be sent to Niger soon. Above all, the agency operates four so-called risk analysis networks with countries outside the EU. Two include the countries of Eastern Europe, one the Balkans and Turkey. The biggest one is the Intelligence Community Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (Afic).

Since its founding in 2010, Frontex has already invited 20 intelligence officers from Africa to Warsaw. At Afic there are 21 countries, from Morocco via Djibouti to Angola. Seven states, including the hardcore dictatorships Eritrea and Sudan, have „observers“ status, including Ethiopia, Somalia and Tunisia are „invited“ to participate. „This is a framework for intelligence sharing in the area of border security,“ says Frontex. And bring to the table those who are responsible for some of the causes of the escape.

Meanwhile there are not only meetings, but also an online platform for data exchange. Monthly analyzes have been carried out since May. The goal: To draw as complete a picture as possible of migration throughout Africa.

Andrej Hunko, a deputy for the Left, believes that the EU's new aid offers to Africa: „Cooperation with shady governments and dictatorships is the sole purpose of building them as bouncers for the fortress of Europe.“

Vor „dramatischer“ Migration aus Afrika warnt die deutsche Regierung, von einem „Marshallplan“ ist die Rede. Doch die Milliardensummen, die Europa in Afrika ausgeben will, dienen nicht nur dem Kampf gegen Armut. Erklärtes Ziel der neuen EU-Afrikapolitik ist es, Flüchtlinge und Migranten schon tief im Innern des Kontintents aufzuhalten. Die taz berichtet seit Mitte November in einem Rechercheschwerpunkt darüber, zu finden unter

Die Recherche wurde gefördert von Fleiß und Mut e. V. (cja)

The EU has „agencies“ for certain policy areas. No one has grown as fast as the Frontex. When she was founded in Warsaw in 2005, she had only 45 employees and an annual budget of 6.5 million euros. This year, Frontex is able to spend 254 million euros, 2020 should be 320 million.

Full service: deportations in the complete package

What is certain is that the EU wants to further expand Frontex – to a complete border police. It was not until September that she gained new competencies: for deportations. To date, Frontex has carried out deportation charter flights only at the request and expense of the member countries. In 2015 there were seven, this year so far 13, it went to Georgia, Serbia and Albania.

In the future, Frontex will be able to carry out collective deferrals on its own initiative and at its own expense. She now has her own budget from which she can pay for airplanes, accommodation of accompanying persons, food, medical staff and interpreters. It provides passports for deportations and „voluntary departure“, all tasks that have hitherto been in the hands of the Member States. Frontex is thus becoming a service agency for foreigners' authorities. 66.5 million euros have been allocated to „Return Support“ since this year.

To this end, a pool of so-called escorting officers, ie returning companions, is set up in the respective Member States. In parallel, a pool of „return specialists“ will be created, which can be deployed flexibly to the Member States to organize deportations there.But Frontex is also to prevent any irregular migrants from reaching Europe. Staff of the agency train border guards of non-EU countries, for example in the detection of fake passports. Frontex has carried out almost 500 such trainings since 2010, most in Eastern Europe, some in Morocco. This week, Frontex starts training the Libyan coast guard – their contribution to an EU training mission.

The number of employees grows with the tasks. Lastly, Frontex had more than 360 officials. In the meantime, a roughly 1,200-strong so-called emergency force group is being added to help protect the EU's external borders, in Bulgaria, for example. There, 163 employees monitor the borders to Turkey and Serbia.

No contact for contradiction

Only one is saved: monitoring and complaining mechanisms. Anyone who is illegally rejected or deported by EU border guards has little opportunity to do so. This is not just complained about by refugee organizations and human rights activists, but also by the Europaparlament: Frontex needs to provide more staff and more money to protect the fundamental freedoms and complaints of asylum seekers, the Committee on Civil Liberties calls.

More resources and more staff are not a solution, as Frontex itself shows. This year, when more staff and more money was available to the agency than ever before, more than 4,700 people drowned more than ever before Libya. Rescuing people is not the real reason why people like the policeman Pal Erik Teigen are on the Mediterranean.

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