Migrants on their way to European Union countries, passing through Belgrade, Serbia | Photo: Koca Sulejmanovic / EPA
Migrants on their way to European Union countries, passing through Belgrade, Serbia | Photo: Koca Sulejmanovic / EPA

The European Commission has proposed a new aid package worth over €39 million to increase border controls and 'migration management.' They also want to send Frontex officials to non-EU borders in the Balkans.

The European Commission announced on Tuesday (October 25) a number of measures aimed at reducing migration through the Balkans to the European Union (EU).

The commission launched a new assistance package worth €39.2 million meant to strengthen border management in the Western Balkans. It includes mobile surveillance systems, unnamed aerial vehicles, biometric devices, training and support to establish and operationalize national coordination centers, according to a statement released by the commission.

They also adopted a recommendation to the EU Council to authorize negotiations between the EU and Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, regarding an expansion of the EU border agency Frontex's presence in these non-EU Balkan countries.

Frontex officials at non-EU borders?

At the moment, deployment of the standings corps of Frontex can only take place at the countries' borders with the EU and without exercising executive powers, according to the commission.

Now, they want Frontex officers to have more powers in the Balkans and to be deployed even at their borders with non-EU countries.

The commission said that their goal was "to boost the capacity of Western Balkan countries to manage immigration, fight against smuggling and ensure security."

"We are committed to supporting our partners in the Western Balkans and strengthening our cooperation on migration management on the ground," Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said.

More migrants, refugees arriving from the Balkans

In recent months, an increase in the number of migrants and refugees arriving in the EU via the Balkan Route has led to a further increase in measures aimed at stopping migration.

The Balkans is a region in southeastern Europe, located between Greece in the southeast and Italy in the northwest. It has long been a transit route for refugees and migrants hoping to reach Western European countries like Germany or France, though an increase in border control measures since 2015 has left many people unable to leave the region.

Pushback accusations against Balkan border officials, Frontex

Migrant rights' advocates have long criticized that migrants and refugees on the Balkan Route often face dire living conditions and violent pushbacks when attempting to cross its borders.

Meanwhile, EU border agency Frontex has repeatedly faced accusations that its officers have turned a blind eye on pushbacks, in particular off the Greek coast, and may have even been actively involved in pushbacks.

Last week, the EU parliament refused to endorse the 2020 budget for Frontex over the agency's failure to protect the rights of migrants and its alleged involvement in pushbacks under previous executive director Fabrice Leggeri. Frontex officials have denied any involvement in pushbacks.


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