EU Commission plans to triple spending on border controls

Spending to be beefed up to €35bn in next budget, including on 10,000 guards

The European Commission plans to almost triple spending in the next seven-year budget on asylum, migration and EU border controls, from €13 billion to €35 billion. It also intends to fund the recruitment of some 10,000 border guards to beef up the border defences of member states.

The proposals, which represent the most significant proposed increase in the overall budget multi-annual financial framework for 2021-2027, come as a response to the huge migration flows, which peaked in 2015 and have deeply divided member states on how to “burden share”.

Ministers remain deadlocked over how to reform the so-called Dublin regulation, which makes refugees the responsibility of the EU state they arrive in first.

The new proposals were announced in Strasbourg by commissioner for migration issues Dimitris Avramopoulos, who warned that failure to prepare for the next migration crisis could jeopardise the union itself.

He said the responsibility for safeguarding the 629 refugees on the Aquarius, now heading for Spain, did not lie with Italy, or Malta, or Spain, "because we all are responsible". "It requires a European response," he said.

The EU funding would go to two major funds – an asylum migration fund of €21. 3 billion; and an integrated border management fund of €9.3 billion. It was proposed to allocate some €1.3 billion alone to acquiring new equipment – cars, aircraft, helicopters and IT systems – to build member states’ customs infrastructures.

The emphasis would be on building member states’ capacities, not replacing their roles, he said. But the funding would allow greater co-ordination and co-operation both between member states and within them – integrating, for example, the IT and management systems of customs and border agencies.

Tackling the causes

Europe’s challenge, he said, was not to build a “fortress Europe” but to take an integrated approach to the migration challenge by dealing with borders and tackling the economic causes of migration, the integration of new arrivals and fighting the criminality of smugglers.

The commission will reveal details of its budget plans for the Trust Fund for Africa on Friday.

Arrival numbers of migrants in the EU via Mediterranean Sea routes have fallen sharply since the 2015 peak of more than a million – the number of refugees arriving in Italy peaked at 23,524 in June 2017. There were 3,895 in May 2018. But the number of deaths, while lower, hasn’t declined anywhere near proportionately, reflecting in part how people are taking longer and riskier journeys to reach Europe.

Last week’s home affairs ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg failed to break the deadlock that has held up reform of the Dublin regulation. EU leaders had hoped the issue could be resolved at the June summit but that prospect has now vanished.

The Mediterranean countries are demanding mandatory "burden-sharing" with the reallocation of refugees to member states according to quotas. Resistance is being led by Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, who has in recent days acquired an important new ally in Italy's new interior minister and deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times