Frontex claims to have used more planes for border control in 2020
The EU’s border and coast guard agency Frontex says it is increasingly using chartered planes for aerial surveillance. This is according to a letter from Frontex to the European Commission. A European legislator criticized the lack of rescue capabilities.
After the European Commission received an investigation on March 24 from Özlem Demirel, member of the German Left Party and the European Parliament (MEP), Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri sent a letter to the EC entitled “Frontex involvement in the missions of the common security and defense policy”.
In the letter, Leggeri described how the planes ordered by Frontex in 2020 carried out more than 1,000 missions representing more than 4,700 hours of surveillance flight. The goal, according to Leggeri, was to maintain the level of flight hours or even increase them. According to its annual report, 2019 saw 2,750 flight hours.
MEP Demirel said removing more and more ships from the high seas was a “moral confession of failure” for the European Union. The EU itself must “provide capabilities” to rescue people in distress at sea, she said.
Frontex and Leggeri have come under intense pressure and scrutiny in recent months due to hushed up charges of human rights violations, including pushbacks, fraud, intimidation and secret meetings with the arms industry. Frontex’s tasks, among others, are to analyze migration flows and support EU Member States that have external borders like Italy, Croatia or Greece with technical equipment and border management experts .
However, it is the Member States that are responsible for border control. In 2019, the EU ended Operation Sophia, the task of which was to stop migrant smugglers and traffickers and save migrants from drowning. The successor operation “Irini”, which consists of monitoring the arms embargo against Libya, has so far not rescued any migrant despite its activity in the Mediterranean since March 2020.
Rescue at sea has repeatedly been a bone of contention, as Italy and Malta have repeatedly refused ships of private sea rescue organizations to dock in their ports.
Last Thursday (April 22), the SOS Mediterranee charity announced that its search and rescue vessel Ocean Viking had reached the site of a shipwreck. The crew found several bodies, one hunched over a lifeline, but no survivors. Migrant aid groups, the Pope and the UN condemned the incident, which likely claimed the lives of 130 migrants.
Press Agency dpa reported that following the disaster, several MEPs wrote a letter to EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson on Monday (April 26th). In the letter, they said that “all European and Libyan authorities have been informed and no one has come for more than 48 hours to rescue them”.
Only an observation plane operated by Frontex was dispatched, which identified the boat and informed all authorities and merchant ships in the area that the boat was in distress. A Frontex spokesperson blamed the tragedy on bad weather.