top of page
  • Writer's pictureAdriana Santamaria Duthon

The EU Migration Crisis and Regionalism: The case of FRONTEX

King's College London (2021)

This paper was created in collaboration with other MA students of King's College London's Defense Department.


The European Union (EU) migration crisis and the increasing security issues in the region have presented European leaders and policymakers with their greatest challenge since the 2008 debt crisis. In fact, ‘not only have regions become "substantially more important" sites of conflict and cooperation than in the past, but they have also acquired "substantial" autonomy from the system-level interactions of the global powers’[1]. This supposes that while the EU migration policies have focused on control at the external border, there has been an important increase in the role played by different actors within the EU region[2].

As a response to the current migration crisis and geopolitical threats, a set of multilateral actions and inter-state actors have been developed, such as the Frontex agency. The creation of the latter illustrates that the migration crisis directly affects the security policies within a specific region, and that conflict and security management are dependent on inter-state policymaking in the European Region.


According to the UNHCR, 25,180 people arrived in Europe between January and May 2021 using the Mediterranean Sea, while only 1980 passed by land. Between 2014 and 2020, the total reaches 2,176,820 (for 20550 estimated casualties), with a peak at 1,032,408 in 2015 caused by the Syrian civil war[3], which provoked ”A trend of change reaching a critical threshold”[4]. While 52.1% are African migrants, 6.9% are Bengalis, 6.6% Syrians, 6.5% Afghans and 4% others. The Mediterranean migration is not new[5]. Four waves can be distinguished: the first two happened during the Trente Glorieuses, the third was caused by the oil crisis of the 1970s, and the 1990-1991 Gulf War triggered the fourth[6].


Much of the work for addressing the migrant crisis falls on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, established in October 2004. The Agency was established to improve the interaction of border authorities of member states and coordinates the control of the external borders of the EU, but actual authority is still exercised directly by the EU Member States. In general, Frontex is engaged in intelligence activities and risk analysis. Its main functions are to “reduce vulnerability of the external borders based on comprehensive situational awareness; guarantee safe, secure and well-functioning EU borders, and plan and maintain European Border and Coast Guard capabilities.”[7]


Among the tasks of the Agency is aiding the EU member states in developing common European training standards, but lack of real authority calls its role of enforcing a regional approach into question. As reported in 2020, “Frontex is not empowered to stop national border guards from committing violations, and it is not clear how it can play a role as standard-bearer of E.U. laws when informing on national forces risks the working relationships on which its operations depend.”[8] The establishment of Frontex demonstrates a desire for European regionalism to expand state influence, but the immigrant crisis in the Mediterranean is revealing the historical pull of nationalism in Southern Europe as they perceive the threat differently than other EU states.


While the EU strives to operate as a singular bloc in terms of migration policies, the burden of the migration crisis is on Southern European states on the Mediterranean, who see the majority of refugee and migrant traffic. Every country has different security concerns, and those determined as security concerns by Brussels by a large number of Northern, Western, and Central Europeans are not fully the same as those of Southern Europe, who have to deal with the migration crisis most directly. The complicated and varied policy restrictions to entry to the European Union have also increased the number of irregular migrants. This natural reaction to an inflexible entry policy has, in a twist of irony, created a greater security dilemma for the region. Refugees and migrants entering across the Mediterranean may evade Frontex authorities, but then enter the EU as complete and unknown actors. Authorities, therefore, have a weakened ability to know if there are any terrorists or others intended to do harm. As Espeth Guild and Joanne van Selm explained, “if we do not check, we do not know.”[9]


Frontex exemplifies a formal regional approach to addressing inter-regional migration. The migrant ‘crisis’ is securitized and presented as a threat to the intra-regional stability, and therefore security, of the EU[10]. The threat is further predicated on the value of intra-regional political alignment through a shared European identity and intra-regional labour market integration, both fostered by the freedom of movement in the Schengen area.[11] Securing this area’s external borders against illegal or irregular immigration and against the perceived abuse of legal migration channels (e.g., overstaying visas) has been described by the Council of the European Union as a strategic response to migratory pressures.[12] Frontex also fosters cooperation with and between member states through its involvement in still-developing EC programs of information exchange and coordination like EUROSUR.[13] Thus, Frontex’s activities in response to the migrant crisis are both potentially stabilizing to the EU as a region and developmental in its further regionalism. That said, accusations of opaque and unaccountable deportation regimes—in which Frontex now assists EU member states—and other negative public perceptions, could undermine the EU’s perceived commitment to human rights among member state polities.[14]


The EU, which could not foresee the migration crisis and develop a preventive and effective policy before the crisis, searched for regional solutions afterward. The establishment of the Frontex agency allowed enhanced cooperation in the EU's border control and serves as an example of effective regionalism. Undoubtedly, Frontex has aided in the improvement of inter-state collaboration regarding the EU migration crisis, despite criticisms for their performance and continued nationalistic pushback to a regional solution. The EU approach to the migration crisis demonstrates a strengthening of EU regionalism and a consensus on how to approach shared interests.


 

[1] Amitav Acharya, "The Emerging Regional Architecture of World Politics." World Politics 59, no. 4 (2007): 629. [2] Ċetta. Mainwaring, At Europe's edge: migration and crisis in the Mediterranean. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 2. [3] ‘Europe - Refugee and Migrant Arrivals and Dead and Missing Data’, UNHCR Operational Data Portal (ODP), accessed 26 May 2021, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean. [4] Anna Lindley, Crisis and Migration: Critical Perspectives (Routledge, 2014), 2. [5] Sacco Vittoria and Valérie Gorin, ‘Introduction Journalistic Practices in the Representation of Europe’s 2014–2016 Migrant and Refugee Crisis’, Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies Vol. 7, no. No. 1 (2018): 3–14. [6] Thibaut Jaulin, ‘Migrations en Méditerranée : la crise de l’asile’, Politique étrangère, no. 4 (2016): 25–34, https://www.cairn.info/journal-politique-etrangere-2016-4-page-25.htm. [7] Frontex, "Who We Are." Foreword. https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/who-we-are/foreword/. [8] Stevis-gridneff, Matina. "E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece." The New York Times. November 26, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/world/europe/frontex-migrants-pushback-greece.html. [9] Guild, Elspeth, and van Selm, Joanne, eds. International Migration and Security : Opportunities and Challenges. Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group, 2005. Accessed May 29, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central, 19. [10]Sarah Léonard, "Eu Border Security and Migration into the European Union: Frontex and Securitisation through Practices," European Security 19, no. 2 (2010). [11] Joanne van Selm, "Immigration and Regional Security," ed. Elpseth Guild and Joanne van Selm, International Migration and Security : Opportunities and Challenges (Online: Taylor & Francis, 2005), https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/kcl/reader.action?docID=200561&ppg=20. [12] Council of the European Union, "Outcome of Proceedings, Council of the European Union (Eu Doc. No. 9650/12)," (2012), https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9650-2012-INIT/en/pdf. [13] European Commission, "Border Management: New Eurosur Regulation Improves Cooperation between Member States and with Frontex," news release, 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/news/border-management-new-eurosur-regulation-improves-cooperation-between-member-states-and-frontex_en. [14] Statewatch “Deportation Union: Rights, accountability, and the EU’s push to increase forced removals”, 2020.


 

References


Acharya, Amitav. "The Emerging Regional Architecture of World Politics." World Politics 59, no. 4 (2007): 629-52.


Commission, European. "Border Management: New Eurosur Regulation Improves Cooperation between Member States and with Frontex." news release, 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/news/border-management-new-eurosur-regulation-improves-cooperation-between-member-states-and-frontex_en.



Guild, Elspeth, and van Selm, Joanne, eds. International Migration and Security : Opportunities and Challenges. Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group, 2005. Accessed May 29, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central, 19.


Hammond, Timothy G. “The Mediterranean Migration Crisis”. Foreign Policy Journal, 2015, 12.


Jaulin, Thibaut. “Migrations en Méditerranée : la crise de l’asile”. Politique étrangère, no. 4 (2016): 25–34. https://www.cairn.info/journal-politique-etrangere-2016-4-page-25.htm.


Léonard, Sarah. "Eu Border Security and Migration into the European Union: Frontex and Securitisation through Practices." European Security 19, no. 2 (2010/06/01 2010): 231-54.

Lindley, Anna. Crisis and Migration: Critical Perspectives. Routledge, 2014.


Mainwaring, Ċetta. At Europe's Edge: Migration and Crisis in the Mediterranean. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. Oxford Scholarship Online, 2019. doi: 10.1093/oso/9780198842514.001.0001.


Stevis-gridneff, Matina. "E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece." The New York Times. November 26, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/world/europe/frontex-migrants-pushback-greece.html.


Sacco Vittoria, and Valérie Gorin. “Introduction Journalistic Practices in the Representation of Europe’s 2014–2016 Migrant and Refugee Crisis”. Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies Vol. 7, no. No. 1 (2018): 3–14.


Statewatch “Deportation Union: Rights, accountability, and the EU’s push to increase forced removals”, 2020.


UNHCR Operational Data Portal (ODP).” Europe - Refugee and Migrant Arrivals and Dead and Missing Data”. UNHCR Operational Data Portal (ODP). Accessed 26 May 2021. https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean.


Union, Council of the European. "Outcome of Proceedings, Council of the European Union (Eu Doc.No.9650/12)." (2012). https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9650-2012-INIT/en/pdf.


98 views0 comments

Comentarios


bottom of page