Although the Irish state is not a formal member of the EU border control agency Frontex – whose discovery of the possible involvement by NGOs in human trafficking we referred to earlier in the week – it does have a close relationship with the agency.
In 2019, it was reported that Frontex had been part of a joint operation here that led to 23 deportations.
The Irish government provided Frontex with €380,000 in 2022, which is almost four times what it was in 2017. €200,000 of that went to Joint Return Operations which repatriate illegal immigrants who are deported.
Irish officials also participate in a small way in other aspects of the agency’s work including sharing of information on child trafficking. There is also at least one Irish person currently serving with Frontex on the Greek/Turkish border.
Frontex received EU funding of €754 million in 2022. It has 545 officers working in Greece who are supported by 11 boats, 2 aircraft and 34 patrol cars. It has more than 2,400 officers overall and detected 28,139 illegal border crossings in the first two months of 2022.
This compares to 330,000 such crossings in 2022 which was an increase of 64% on 2021. Most of the crossings take place across the Central Mediterranean and the western Balkans, with the Mediterranean crossings accounting for 40% of the total.
There were 5,600 crossings of the English Channel, up by more than 80% on the first two months of 2022. That is obviously of interest to Ireland as an unknown, but likely significant, number of those find their way here.
The role of Frontex in combatting the trafficking of illegal migrants has not surprisingly earned them the hatred and opposition of the NGO migrancy sector, as well as the political left. Some believe that this in large part explains the decision by the EU anti-fraud office OLAF to mount an investigation into Frontex that led to the resignation of its Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri in April 2022.
The OLAF report claimed to have found evidence of mismanagement, none of it approximating to what we would generally regard as fraud, and that Frontex had been guilty of “serious misconduct” involving the breaching of “fundamental rights.”
That was a reference to the alleged “illegal pushbacks” of migrants who were prevented from crossing into the EU.
While there are those who are critical of the failure of Frontex to be more effective in tackling human trafficking, its main enemies are those who wish to close it down. Not surprisingly that includes the liberal left in Ireland.
Thomas Pringle referred to Frontex “forcing people back into the sea” at a Justice Committee meeting on March 21.
Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny basically seemed to feel that there ought to be no border controls as these impact on “human rights.” On February 28, Bríd Smith appeared to be basically proposing that the EU itself transport illegal migrants across the Mediterranean, to countries which are attempting to stem the tide. Catherine Connolly has wondered whether the Ukrainian refugees might not be receiving preferential treatment because they are “white and European.”
No serious state can expect sense from that quarter.
Even Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe has described Frontex as “not fit for purpose,” and while Simon Harris referred in Committee to the need to tackle “irregular entries,” he was most anxious to associate himself with the opposition in their anxiety not to be seen to support anything like the policies being proposed by the British government.
In any event, the poor record of the Irish state in this regard speaks for itself.
For all of its faults, there are clearly aspects of Frontex that could be of great assistance in helping the Irish state to clamp down on the numbers of bogus asylum seekers.
One key measure is the False and Authentic Documents Online system (FADO) which Frontex claims can determine the validity of a document within seconds. Poof of the efficacy of this is that there are 25 officers based in Orly airport, Paris, who can immediately decide on the authenticity of people arriving.
That may in fact account for some of the fall off in undocumented arrivals in this country.
In December 2015, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil that the Gardaí were in the process of accessing the FADO system, which it hoped would be operational in early 2016. If that is the case, then it clearly is not been deployed in a manner which would discourage people travelling here on false documentation.
No-one has yet explained why such checks were suspended for a time. Gript hopes to be able to bring you more information on this soon.
In the meantime, one can only ponder what really motivates those who are opposed to such controls, and who are seemingly happy with the notion that a small country like Ireland would be overwhelmed with the endless numbers of people who would travel to western Europe if they were allowed to do so with even less restrictions than are currently in place.