Actions in four countries to support ‘No to Frontex’-vote in Swiss referendum

21 April 2022 – On 15 May Switzerland will hold a referendum on its financial contribution to Frontex, giving its population the unique chance to vote against involvement in the EU border guard agency. To support a ‘No to Frontex’-vote, during the next days in four countries activists of groups that are part of the Abolish Frontex network will protest against the national contributions (equipment and personnel) to Frontex operations. Continue reading “Actions in four countries to support ‘No to Frontex’-vote in Swiss referendum”

Resources at the disposal of violence: how European countries make Frontex operations possible

756 German officers, 11 Italian aircrafts, 62 Bulgarian patrol cars, 101 Austrian deportation officials… European states’ contributions to Frontex keep the EU border regime in place.

EU border police Frontex carries out border control operations by land, sea and air. Yet the backbone of Frontex’s work – the equipment and officers that implement and make Frontex operations possible – doesn’t belong to the EU border agency, but are contributions from European countries.

 

Every year, all EU Member States – as well as a series of non-EU countries, including Switzerland, Iceland and Norway – pledge and transfer resources and equipment to Frontex for its operations.

These resources are both technical and human. They include the assets Frontex uses, such as patrol boats, helicopters, aircrafts, cars and vans; smaller equipment such as CO2 and heartbeat detectors; as well as officers who participate and, in fact, implement Frontex’s border control and deportation operations.

Frontex’s heavily increased budget will allow it to purchase more of its own equipment in the coming years, but for now its ability to carry out border operations and deportations is heavily dependent on European countries’ solidarity with the agency. In 2020, national contributions accounted for over 80% of all of the equipment used in Frontex operations. When it comes to bigger equipment such as vessels and aircrafts, countries provided 98% of the assets used by Frontex.

In order to better understand each European country’s contributions to Frontex, NGO FragDenStaat has published a compilation of all resources (equipment and officers) made available to Frontex per country, from 2015 to 2021.

Who contributes what: an Europe-wide effort towards Frontex

Every EU country makes contributions to Frontex operations, whether it’s officers, equipment or both.

The type of resources countries put at Frontex’s disposal are often dependent on whether a country is the host of a Frontex operation: for instance, Italy (which hosts Frontex’s Operation Themis in the Central Mediterranean) is a heavy contributor of maritime-oriented assets such as vessels and patrol boats. Meanwhile, countries which are not part of the so-called frontline states, make contributions in order to compensate or complement those of border states.

When it comes to vessels and patrol boats, Italy, Greece, Spain and Romania are Frontex’s strongest providers. For aircrafts and helicopters, Frontex relies heavily on Italy. Germany is Frontex’s main provider of patrol cars to Frontex along with other EU states such as Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria.

When it comes to what Frontex calls its “boots on the ground” (the officers deployed in charge or executing Frontex’s border control tasks), we find a heavy reliance on Greek, German and Italian officers. Meanwhile, deportations coordinated and executed by Frontex are mostly handled by officers contributed from Austria and the Netherlands.

A full overview of each country’s contributions to Frontex from 2015 to 2021 is available here.

Why (ending) countries’ contributions to Frontex matter

Over the past years, multiple investigations have exposed Frontex as a violent actor: wherever it is deployed, it enables and contributes to violence against people at the EU’s borders.

Frontex has been implicated in numerous and continuous human rights violations, yet this has not, to date, altered European countries’ continued support towards the agency. This is in spite of the fact that, ultimately, it is countries’ resources what make these violations possible.

The vessels and boats from which pushbacks are conducted in the Aegean have been made available to Frontex by Romania and Portugal. The officers who mistreat and push back people throughout the Balkans are very often identified as German speakers.

Yet as most states continue to pledge material and human support to Frontex without questioning the implications this might have and the complicity it creates, some European countries have started questioning whether they should be putting their resources at the service of such a violent border regime and agency.

This is the case of Switzerland, which on 15 May will hold a referendum – the first of its kind – on whether to withdraw its support to Frontex. As a non-EU state, Switzerland not only contributes resources and officers to Frontex, but also money: 61 million Swiss francs per year in 2027.

At the heart of Switzerland’s vote lies an important reality the rest of European states must also confront: as long as countries keep contributing resources to Frontex, these resources will be used to perpetrate and enable violence against people on the move.

To this extent, putting an end to national contributions to Frontex is not only a way to take a stance against the ongoing violence at Europe’s borders; it is in fact a decisive step towards actually ending this violence by refusing to actively participate in it.

Ending countries’ contributions to Frontex is therefore a central measure towards abolishing Frontex, putting an end to the EU border regime, and enabling us to invest valuable resources into policies that protect – instead of endangering – lives.

How and when contributions to Frontex are agreed by European countries

How many resources (assets, technical equipment and officers) European countries make available to Frontex for its operations stems from two rounds of negotiations held between each country and Frontex every year.

Twice a year (in the spring and at the end of the summer), Frontex makes an estimation of how many resources it will need in order to be able to carry out its operations. On the basis of this estimation, Frontex reaches out to all European countries and makes a request for their contributions. Negotiations are then held between countries and Frontex, where both agree how many resources will be made available to Frontex when.

For some equipment, mainly patrol vessels, which member states have bought with EU funding (from the Internal Security Fund or the Integrated Border Management Fund), there exists an obligation to make it available to Frontex for a part of each year.

The resources agreed as a result of these negotiations will be incorporated into Frontex’s “pool” of resources: from then on, they become available to Frontex, which can then deploy them during its operations.

Occasionally, Frontex will run short of equipment or officers and can request additional contributions from countries. On other occasions, Frontex will choose not to deploy the resources in its “pool”, even if they are at their disposal.

 

Continue reading “Resources at the disposal of violence: how European countries make Frontex operations possible”

[En/It] Unseen complicity: How Switzerland contributes to Frontex

How breaking down the Frontex complex can increase resistance at the local level. The Swiss Referendum shows opportunities and limitations. 

[Italiano]

On May 15, the Swiss electorate has the unique opportunity to vote on Switzerland’s participation on the expansion of Frontex. For the first time, the national contribution of a country to the EU border agency comes to vote. While it is clear that Switzerland as a non-EU but Schengen-associated state is embedded into a different context than EU member states, the Swiss Referendum can give an important lead on how to tackle public and political responsibility on the consequences of the brutal EU border regime in which Frontex plays a crucial role.  

Continue reading “[En/It] Unseen complicity: How Switzerland contributes to Frontex”

Join the Abolish Frontex Action Days on April 22, 23, or 24

[Français//Deutsch//Italiano]

Support the Swiss No-Frontex referendum

In May, Switzerland will have the unique opportunity to say YES to freedom of movement for all and NO to Frontex. The Swiss parliament decided to strengthen the European border protection agency Frontex with 61 million Swiss francs annually. But activists collected 50.000 signatures for a referendum on that will take place on May 15. If successful, the referendum may lead to Switzerland being the first European country that decides to actively defund Frontex. Due to the Schengen-acquis it is even likely that Switzerland will completely withdraw from Frontex. 

Continue reading “Join the Abolish Frontex Action Days on April 22, 23, or 24”

Safe migration routes for all – not only in times of crisis, but always!

[from NoFrontex] 4 March 2022 –  The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is driving hundreds of thousands of people to escape. The current situation clearly shows: we need open and safe migration routes – and anti-racist solidarity.

Thousands of people are fleeing the Russian aggression against Ukraine. In many European countries, this has caused immense solidarity within society – the demand to quickly and jointly organize the reception of Ukrainian war refugees can be heard throughout Europe. More than 20,000 people took to the streets in Bern, Switzerland, on Saturday to protest against the war and demanded not only an end to the Russian attack but also solidarity with all those affected by the war. An important statement. In the face of an escalating war in Europe, suddenly the impossible seems possible: the EU Commission offered the neighbouring countries (Poland and other regional states) financial support and the competence of Frontex to help them organizing support for refugees fleeing Ukraine. The Polish government reacted positively to the offer and said that it possibly wants Frontex’s help with accommodation and care. This shows where the money Frontex invests in militarisation could actually go: into solidarity-based infrastructure that guarantees a dignified life for all those who (have to) decide to leave their place of residence.

For NoFrontex it is clear: we need open and safe migration routes, not only in times of crisis, but always. As NoFrontex, we fully support the call to quickly and jointly ensure the admission of Ukrainian war refugees. Together with numerous individuals, networks and organisations we demand this in an open letter to minister Karin Keller-Sutter. We need corridors of solidarity! Continue reading “Safe migration routes for all – not only in times of crisis, but always!”

Abolish Frontex: On the duty to rescue and the loss of life in the Mediterranean

[by Pat Rubio Bertran, Refugee Rescue] 4 February 2022 – In 2015, after the drownings of 700 people in the Central Mediterranean route, the European Commission promised measures to prevent such tragedies, including strengthening its search and rescue capacity. Less than a year after announcing the plans to ramp up search and rescue support, the EU decided to expand the tasks of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to include providing ‘technical and operational assistance in the support of search and rescue operations for persons in distress at sea’. Besides being an obligation in International law, search and rescue is also a specific objective in Frontex’s operational plan. However, five years after that statement and regulation, the deaths and disappearances of people attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean continues to increase. In addition, past investigations, particularly in the Central Mediterranean route, have uncovered how Frontex assets repeatedly fail to respond to emergency distress calls at sea and deliberately patrol in the wrong areas, even in total awareness of how these practices lead to an increase in fatalities at sea.  Continue reading “Abolish Frontex: On the duty to rescue and the loss of life in the Mediterranean”

Insurance companies Nationale Nederlanden and Aegon profit from Polish border wall

[by Radical Solidarity and Stop the War on Migrants] 1 February 2022 – Last week, Poland started the construction of a wall at its border with Belarus. This is to prevent people on the move to enter its territory (and, by corrolary, the EU) and seek asylum. After sending armed soldiers to harass migrants and refugees, Poland, blessed by EU’s ‘blindness’, is now erecting the closure of Fortress Europe. This all comes to life in the height of winter with freezing temperatures further endangering the lives of migrants. So far, official numbers say that 10 people have died at this border, but activists and NGOs assure that the real number must be much higher. For the ones who make it into Poland, they are detained in detention centres and many are repatriated to their home countries – especially to Iraq. This is yet another proof that the EU will always prefer the freedom of movement of capital to the one of people. Continue reading “Insurance companies Nationale Nederlanden and Aegon profit from Polish border wall”

It’s done: Over 55,000 signatures collected against Frontex for Swiss referendum

19 January – Despite pandemic-related social distance, wintry cold and political headwinds, the campaign has succeeded: Well over 55,000 signatures were collected for the “Referendum against the financing of the border protection agency Frontex”. It is a success of solidarity, made possible by the efforts of grassroots organizations and individuals. Many people no longer want to accept the violent migration policy. On Thursday, the signatures will be handed over to the Bundeskanzlei in Bern.

“Anyone who is serious about protection for refugees must stop the Frontex expansion. When refugees drown in the closely monitored Mediterranean, it is not an accident, but murder” says Malek Ossi from Watch the Med Alarmphone Switzerland.

Read further on the No Frontex Referendum website.

Support people on the move at the border between Poland and Belarus

It is also a very fertile ground for hatred of the other, of foreigners, in Poland and of course in all of Europe. The way people are treated by the government justifies the thoughts and actions of right-wing extremist groups and fuels the growth of a fascist European Border system. The fear and impotence that are brought by the tragic images relayed by the mainstream media are not new. It anguishes, immobilizes, demonstrating in black and white the authority of all-powerful militarized states, equipped with weapons and barbed wire. It makes people believe than this is the only option, that this is an efficient “solution” to a “dangerous crisis”. Who is here in danger? In the meantime, attention is being diverted from a necessary reflection on possible solidarity structures and inclusion strategies that would not have cost more. Increasing this fear in any way is one of the most openly used tactics of the last century, to justify the more and more hermetic closing of borders. It is also a way to paralyze people, to make them feel unable to react to inhumane measures, unable to resist them.

However, many people and groups have taken action, despite the ever-increasing difficulties, danger and lack of means. These people are partly locals who didn’t accept the situation and got to be active, some joined more or less institutionalized associations, or formed autonomous groups. Directly, autonomous anarchist groups have joined them and organized in their own way a system of first aid. Beyond the physical help, their goal is also to spread honest and effective information about what is happening there, for the rest of Europe.
Link to the NoBorderTeam Telegram info-chanel: t.me/no_borders_team.

In December 2021, the No Border Team Poland invited groups from several European countries to discuss the situation. The goals of this meeting were to get a better understanding of the situation in Poland, what has been done so far and which are the current needs. Also, to connect more autonomous groups around the cause in order to strengthen the European network of anti-border activists and to think about common strategies.

Read further at Kontrapolis

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