E.U. Planning a 10,000-Strong Armed Force to Protect Its Borders

The European Union will deploy 10,000 armed border guards to tackle unlawful migration by 2020, the European Commission President Claude Juncker is expected to announce in a speech on Wednesday.

FRONTEX - Greek Turkish land borderThe force will have the power to use armed force on the E.U.’s external borders, according to a draft of the document seen by the Financial Times.

Migration has been a particularly divisive issue within the E.U. since a major influx of refugees in 2015. Voters’ fears and concerns over migration have, in part, led to right wing parties surging in popularity and being elected to government in a number of member states including Italy and Austria. 

The border force proposal marks a significant E.U.-level policy move in a debate that has long been defined by disagreements between individual member states. Most recently, in July, the new anti-immigrant Italian government refused to allow boats carrying hundreds of migrants to dock in its ports, leading to a political deadlock that only defused when Spain agreed to take the migrants in.

The proposal for a heavily beefed-up E.U. border force is also likely to be highly controversial—with rights groups who decry the construction of a “Fortress Europe,” and with political parties who resent centralized European institutions accruing more power.

What will the border force look like?

border guards 3The proposal is actually to significantly strengthen an existing force, rather than to create a totally new one. The body, Frontex, currently employs just 1,500 border guards and works alongside national border control agencies.

According to the Financial Times, under the new proposal the force will not only gain members but also increased powers. The document suggests it will be deployed on the E.U.’s external borders and also have powers to prevent “secondary movements” between E.U. nations, as well as “step up the effective return of irregular migrants” to countries outside of the bloc. These are powers long demanded by anti-migrant voices in the E.U.

It is unclear whether the plans mean borders between member states will also be policed. If they are, it would mark a seismic change to one of the E.U.’s founding principles of free movement.

Under current E.U. law, asylum-seekers must register in the first E.U. country they land in, but the free-movement Schengen area means that traveling between countries is easy and unregulated. This typically allows migrants to move from point-of-entry countries like Greece to countries with higher living standards, like Germany.

However European borders, internal and external, are under much less pressure than they were at the height of the migration crisis. The number of arrivals to the E.U. fell from a height of over 1 million in 2015 to just 186,000 in 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration [Largely because of measures taken by Turkey, which is hosting around 4 million refugees and doing its best to prevent them from entering Europe – but scant thanks they get for it].

The numbers of migrants moving between E.U. member states are also way down from the highs of 2015 and 2016. “It’s true the Schengen area is under pressure,” says Marie De Somer, a senior policy analyst on migration and diversity at the European Policy Centre, a Brussels think tank. “But it’s more political pressure, rather than actual pressure from uncontrolled movements.”

Is a border force likely to be effective?

border guards“Barbed-wire fences and remote camps might make voters feel safe today but they won’t address the actual forces that drive migration or resolve the situation of people on the move, even as they empower forces in Europe who want to take the continent back to the hyper-nationalism of its bloody past,” writes Benjamin Ward, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s European division.

 But, says Matthew Goodwin, the author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, the E.U. is under pressure to reassure its citizens first and foremost. “The big challenge facing the European Union is how to give citizens a stronger feeling of both physical and cultural security,” he tells TIME. “We know from E.U.-wide surveys that public concerns about immigration and terrorism have increased dramatically, and that these worries about identity and security are now also bleeding into how people think about the E.U. more generally. This is the big risk for the E.U.—that by failing to bolster people’s sense of security it will further erode support for the E.U. project more generally.”

Source: Time

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Turkish NGO provides education for refugee children in makeshift tents

n_113386_1I’m passing this on from Turkey’s English language Hürriyet Daily News:

The Imece Initiative, a non-governmental organization working mostly with Syrian refugees in the western province of İzmir, has started to provide education for refugee children who do not have access to school, by setting up makeshift tents.

As part of the “Makeshift Tent” project, the NGO has been visiting various regions and villages where Syrian agricultural workers mostly live five days of the week, setting up tents in these places. Thanks to the organization’s workshops the children are learning how to read and write in Turkish and Arabic.

The NGO has been active for the last three months in the Çamanönü village in İzmir’s Menderes district. About 180 Syrian families live in the village, where greenhouse cultivation has also been initiated intensively. 

The refugee children wait anxiously every Saturday morning for a bus of the NGO people to come to their village. 

While some of the NGO workers set up the tents, others dress themselves up as clowns to play with the kids. 

CAIMA501-Mideast-Out-Of-SchAbout 30 children aged between seven and 12 sit around a table set up in a field of olive trees, where two NGO volunteers give Turkish and Arabic language classes. 

The children have been receiving education in this tent for the last three months and have almost mastered the two languages. Apart from language education, the children are also given mathematics lessons. They have also improved their motor skills thanks to workshops on handcrafts and painting.

“Since the kids know that we come every Saturday, they wake up early in the morning and ask their mothers to dress them up in their nicest clothes. When they see us arriving in the village, they come running to us. We have been coming for the last three months and holding workshops for the kids. Every time we come, we see more kids,” Imece Initiative workers said.

n_92704_1“Since most of them were born in Turkey, they have never seen a school. First, we conduct painting workshops for the younger children. Later, we give Turkish and mathematics lessons to children aged between seven and 12,” said Ali Güray Yalvaçlı, head of the Imece Initiative Foundation.

“To ensure continuity, we are always in contact with the families. For example, a family who is in Menderes this week can be lreocated to the Torbalı district next week. Wherever the kids go, we go there,” he said.

Read the article