The EU Creates a New Border Control Force

By Dan Cadman on October 14, 2016

The European Union (EU) announced last month that it would create a border control force consisting of both a land and sea division — in essence a border patrol and a coast guard — to be effective right about now, in mid-October (see here and here).

The announcement comes after a year and a half of endless waves of migrants working their way into Europe, primarily through the land and sea gateways of Turkey, straddling the European and Asian continents, and Libya, on the north coast of Africa. Well over 1.5 million migrants from all over the Middle East, South Asia, and both North and Sub-Saharan Africa have poured into the EU's member states.

That works out to somewhere around 85,000–90,000 migrant arrivals during each month of the seemingly endless crisis.

There is probably little reason, though, for member states to invest confidence in the new force. Over the last months, the EU has tried any number of strategies to curtail this mass migration, but to no avail (see, for instance, here and here). For example, in only two days at the beginning of this month, nearly 10,000 migrants were picked up in Mediterranean waters off Libya and deposited onto Italian islands by the flotilla of ships known as "Frontex," the consortium of member state maritime assets that has now been re-branded as the EU's new coast guard.

The problem seems to be that Frontex/EU Coast Guard resources are excellent at search-and-rescue (SAR), but abysmal at deterrence or interdiction. The consequence, of course, is that instead of putting a halt to maritime migrant flows, they simply complete the job of alien smugglers who are no longer put to the chore of actually having to land their loads on European shores — they need only tow them out to international waters in overcrowded rubber dinghies or leaky scows, cut them loose, and sooner or later an EU craft picks them up and conveniently lands them, often at Lampedusa. Sometimes, though, the rescue ships arrive too late, and people have drowned — or even been thrown overboard. No skin off the smugglers' teeth; they've already been paid. In fact, risk of arrest has been minimized for the smugglers by the EU's policy of SAR minus concomitant repatriation, because they don't need to be anywhere around when a patrol boat arrives. And so the endless loop continues.

On the land side of the equation, there is also ample room for doubt. Creation of the boots-on-the-ground border guard is likely to strike many of the Central and Eastern EU member states, who have had to absorb the impact of the northward migrant trek for nearly two years now, as too little, too late. It is also likely to be seen as a sop thrown in their direction with little meaningful intent other than to curb their growing anger over, and resistance to, EU leadership policies that not only led to the crisis but perpetuated it, after which — having gotten more, much more, than they bargained for — these same leaders then proposed migrant "quotas" so as to share the wealth.

Certainly it is not lost on these poorer, newer EU member states that this distributive migrant quota policy came about only after political backlash in the EU powerhouse nations (France and Germany) whose leaders presided over the lame European response to the crisis, and who are now seeing their poll numbers plummet and their political parties rejected by voters in various regional elections.

The resistance to quotas in these east-central European countries has mounted to the point where several have already created their own border guards, erected fences, and instituted frontier checkpoints, despite hostility and lambasting by "EU Central" in Brussels. The Czech Republic has even threatened to sue the EU.

With such steady and mounting backlash, and against the backdrop of Britain's dramatic and unexpected exit from the EU, pressure has been intense on the Eurocrats to send some kind of ameliorating signal to the renegades before they reach open rebellion. And thus the EU's border control force was born. The European Commission, the EU's governing body, seems to be saying "Trust us. You need a border patrol? Don't create your own, we've got you covered!"

Is it any wonder that skepticism would run high? Sovereignty is a concept they just don't seem to get at the European Commission. Nor even, after this long and after so many illegal arrivals, do they seem to understand that deterrence is closely linked to vigorous enforcement — and repatriation.

Of course our own administration doesn't grasp that either.