Tuesday, August 2, 2011

'Elite' EU border guards sent to Europe's crisis spots are powerless to stop migrants

They are an elite cadre of EU immigration guards sent to police border hotspots with hi-tech surveillance equipment. But officers in the multi-million pound Rapid Border Intervention Team are in fact powerless to turn migrants away or send them back to their home countries, a report reveals today.

The team was sent to Greece in November to help control the surge of migrants heading for continental Europe through the Turkish border – including many heading for the UK.

Members of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee visited the border to see the 175-strong RABIT team there in action. Their report said: ‘They cannot act to intercept migrants until they have already crossed the border into Greece, and they cannot send them back.’

Officers are unable to stop migrants before the border as they operate from within the EU, on the Greek side.

The team, part of EU border agency Frontex, lacks the powers to send immigrants back unless they can prove where they came from. But many destroy their documents, making it impossible to establish their home country.

The committee’s report said: ‘The Frontex operation is not performing a significantly different role from that played by the Greek authorities, other than providing increased personnel and provision of technical assistance in the form of cameras, helicopters and so forth.’ The cost of the RABIT team was put at £4.15million by the time it left Greece in March.

Eurosceptic Tory MP Douglas Carswell described the situation as ‘absurd’, adding: ‘Despite the cost of Frontex and its fancy insignia and uniforms all they are doing is apprehending people who have entered the EU illegally and then not removing them.’

Around half of all illegal migrants trying to enter the EU do so along the 124-mile land border between Turkey and Greece. At the end of 2010, around 350 migrants were trying to cross it every day, around one in three heading for the UK.

The MPs’ report said it was the ‘main loophole’ for immigrants trying to get into Europe. It said border controls in Turkey needed to be strengthened before it is allowed to join the EU.

Turkish accession to the EU is supported by both Labour and the Coalition Government but has been stalled by opposition from other countries, such as France.

Estimates of the number of migrants likely to come to Europe from Turkey if it joined range between half a million and 4.4million.

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: ‘The UK Government and its EU partners must do everything they can to assist Turkey in tightening its border controls.’


Recent posts at CIS below

See here for the blog. The CIS main page is here.

1. Statement before the House subcommittee on immigration on the HALT Act (Testimony)

2. The U.S. Needs a Way to “Score” Immigration Bills (Blog)

3. Three Bright Spots in an Otherwise Dull Senate Hearing (Blog)

4. All College Student (F-1) Visa Fraud Comes in Three Parts (Blog)

5. The Grassroot Latino Concern About Immigration (Blog)

6. Case History: DHS, In Effect, Grants 2.5 Citizenships to One Illegal Alien (Blog)

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