Frontex chief: ‘Turkey has delivered’ on refugee deal

Fabrice Leggeri (R), speaking with migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos last year, urged the EU to act if it wants to preserve Schengen. [European Commission]

Protecting the European Union’s external borders has become a focal political point of the refugee crisis. The director of the EU’s border protection agency, Frontex, has called for a controlled and “credible” system. EURACTIV’s partner reports.

In 2015, about 900,000 migrants reached the EU according to Frontex’s own numbers, 17 times more than what was recorded in 2014. The Aegean route into Greece has proved to be the most used and the most dangerous. At the Dahrendorf Symposium in Berlin last week, the head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, spoke about “regaining control of our external borders”. The Frenchman has been in charge of the Warsaw-based agency since 2015.

Leggeri explained that the external border should not necessarily be completely closed, but that it does need a “credible” system of protection. This would entail an EU-wide recognition that the external border is a shared border and that its security should be ensured by the provision of political, financial and military resources.

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The Frontex chief added that the real acid test would be whether countries like Greece would be prepared to forego a degree of the sovereignty in order to guarantee the protection of the external border.

The refugee agreement between the EU and Turkey, finalised back in March, which sees the movement of irregular migrants back to Turkey in exchange for Syrians was labelled a success by Leggeri: “Turkey has delivered.” According to the border agency, the number of refugees crossing the Aegean dropped by 90% in April.

External border protection will remain top of the agenda and a long-term challenge for the EU. Leggeri warned that should internal border restrictions continue and if the member states do not unite on external border protection, then “Schengen will be a stake”.

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Frontex is an agency of the European Union established in 2004 to manage the cooperation between national border guards securing its external borders. Frontex operations aim to detect and stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorist infiltration. The agency has its seat in Warsaw, Poland.

On 15 December 2015 the European Commission presented its proposal for a new European Border and Coast Guard Agency that would replace and succeed Frontex, having a stronger role and mandate and forming a European Border and Coast Guard along with national authorities for border management.

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