As revelations about pushbacks of migrants by several European Union member-states, including Greece, and human rights violations by EU member-states’ security forces pile up, 12 member-states, including Cyprus and Greece, have sent a letter to the European Commission calling for tougher measures to protect Europe’s borders from migration flows.
“Recent developments at the external borders of the European Union indicate that the EU needs to adapt the existing legal framework to the new realities, enabling us to adequately address attempts of instrumentalization of illegal migration for political purposes and other hybrid threats,” home affairs and other ministers in charge of migration policies from Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia say in their letter addressed to Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.
Not coincidentally, the letter was sent Thursday, on the eve of Friday’s EU Home Affairs Council, which met in Luxembourg.
The letter claims that the Schengen Borders Code “does not sufficiently address the illegal crossings of the external land and sea borders. There are no clear rules as to what actions may member-states take in case of a hybrid attack characterized by an artificially created large-scale inflow of irregular migrants, facilitated, organized and/or pushed by a third country.” Moreover, it notes, the code foresees “no measure, except for border surveillance… to prevent the illegal border crossings,” adding that it would be useful to complement surveillance “with more preventive measures.”
Finally, the letter calls for the erection of physical barriers to protect the EU’s external borders, claiming that physical barriers appear “an effective border protection measure that serves the interest of whole EU, not just member-states of first arrival. This legitimate measure should be additionally and adequately funded from the EU budget as a matter of priority.” The letter also calls for a barrier at Cyprus’ Green Line separating the Greek-held sector from the Turkish-occupied, breakaway north.
Johansson, who has condemned pushbacks and pressured Greece and other countries to investigate, said in a press conference that, while she understood some countries’ decisions to erect physical barriers, she did not think they should be funded by the EU’s budget.