On Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 July the European Parliament will debate and vote on the Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF), a new instrument to strengthen member states’ border security capacities and visa policies. The €6.24 billion available for 2021-2027 will be spend on “the strengthening of European integrated border management, the purchase of border management equipment to be used by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the common visa policy and relevant IT systems.”
Most of the money will be made available to member states, based on national programmes they submit to the European Commission. The Commission itself can allocate additional funding to one or more member states by identifying ‘specific actions’ needed in light of new developments. Funding can be used for a broad range of activities, including purchases of infrastructure and operational equipment for border security, training, information exchange with Frontex and with other member states, studies, development of new technologies, identification and fingerprinting equipment, IT systems and communication campaigns to sell the EU’s deadly border policies to the public.
The predecessors of the IBMF, the External Borders Fund (EBF, 2007-2013) and the Internal Security Fund – Borders (ISF, 2014-2020) had a total of around €4.5 billion available for the same purposes. The ISF funded border security equipment purchases by EU member, which they also had to make available for Frontex operations. In other words: another profit opportunity for the arms industry. Italian shipbuilder Cantiere was a big winner, providing patrol vessels to Greece (€41.7 million), Italy (€32.4 million) and Malta (€48.6 million). The Romanian Border Police ordered two patrol vessels from Dutch shipbuilder Damen (€26 billion).
Next to the hugely increased budget for Frontex the IBMF is the most important financial EU instrument to further expand Fortress Europe. It will lead to an increased militarisation of the external borders of the EU, which will result in more violence and pushbacks against people on the move and in pushing them to more dangerous migration routes to avoid this.
The vote in the European Parliament follows a political agreement about the fund reached between the Parliament and the Council in December 2020. The Parliament insisted on stronger provisions on fundamental rights and applauded itself for doing so, undoubtedly knowing that the ritualistic assurance that the EU respects fundamental rights in its border policies has over and over again proven to be a lie to cover its inhumane, violent and racist anti-immigration practices, which have killed over 44,764 people on the move since 1993.
In a first vote on the border security part of the IBMF the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the fund, including massive support from the Social Democrats and the Greens. One might hope that the exposure of pushbacks and violence at the external borders, and the role Frontex plays, will lead to a more critical stance during the voting this week. The Integrated Border Management Fund needs to be rejected.