EU Border Guard Agency Biting Off More Than it Can Chew, Auditor Says

The European Court of Auditors said on Monday the European Union's border and coast guard agency Frontex was being given more tasks than it could handle, which the lead auditor described as "Frontex was biting [off] more than it could chew."

Lead auditor Leo Brincat spoke with reporters after auditors submitted a report on Frontex's work in helping EU countries secure external European borders.

"Frontex is presently not discharging their duty effectively, and we found that this is even more worrying at a time when Frontex is being given added responsibility," Brincat said.

The warnings come after the EU's decision to give Frontex additional support. Frontex, which had a staff of 45 in 2005, has about 10,000 officers and an annual budget of approximately 900 million euros ($1.1 billion).

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Migrant rights protest
The European Court of Auditors said on Monday the European Union's border and coast guard agency Frontex was being given more tasks than it could handle, which the lead auditor described as "Frontex was biting [off] more than it could chew." Above, protesters hold up "Wanted" posters featuring (from left) Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Director of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer at a rally in support of migrants' rights in front of the main train station in Berlin, on September 9, 2020. John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

The 27-nation bloc began bolstering Frontex, and desperately testing new migration policy, after well over 1 million migrants entered Europe in 2015, overwhelming reception centers and sparking a major political crisis about who should take responsibility for them. That dispute continues today.

The auditors said Frontex's support to EU member countries is "not adequate to combat illegal immigration and cross-border crime."

A year after hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict in Syria sought refuge in Europe, EU countries and the European Commission agreed in 2016 on a new mandate to formally establish Frontex as the European Border and Coast Guard agency.

Its main duties were to manage the unauthorized entry of migrants through the EU's external borders and to help reduce cross-border crime while respecting fundamental rights and ensuring that people could continue to move freely once inside Europe's ID-check free zone.

An updated 2019 mandate established the standing corps that it is due to grow to 10,000 officers by 2027. Frontex can now deploy border guards to countries outside the EU and, as the focus grows on deportation, help send people refused entry back to countries they left or transited to get to Europe.

"They went through too many changes too fast, and now I think they are paying the price for this," he said. "They have increased their mandate without really analyzing their performance or the impact of their work."

Frontex spokesman Chris Borowski acknowledged that the agency has "undergone a massive transformation that would have challenged any organization, especially in the times of the COVID pandemic," but that it remains committed to its mission despite the difficulties.

Belgium migrants
The European Court of Auditors said on Monday the European Union's border and coast guard agency Frontex was being given more tasks than it could handle, which the lead auditor described as "Frontex was biting [off] more than it could chew." Above, a paramedic volunteer evacuates a migrant on hunger strike to the hospital as he occupies Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au-Beguinage church in Brussels on June 2, 2021. Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images