EU ‘has blood on its hands’, say activists calling for border agency’s abolition

By Lorenzo Tondo

Activists, captains of rescue ships and about 80 human rights organisations across the world have launched an international campaign calling for the European border agency to be defunded and dismantled.

In an open letter sent last week to the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European parliament, the campaign coalition highlighted the “illegal and inhumane practices” of the EU border agency, Frontex, which is accused of having promoted and enforced violent policies against migrants.

“Over 740 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, looking for a place of safety,” reads the letter. “The EU’s border regime forced them to take dangerous migration routes, often on unseaworthy vessels; it enlisted neighbouring countries to stop them on their way; met them with violence and pushbacks; or refused to rescue them – abandoning them to drown at sea.”

“These are lives lost because of the European Union’s obsession with reinforcing borders instead of protecting people,” said the campaign coalition, which includes Sea-Watch, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Iuventa10, Baobab Experience and Alarm Phone. “At what cost? The policies of Fortress Europe have killed over 40,555 people since 1993. Left to die in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the desert, shot at borders, died by suicide at detention centres, tortured and killed after being deported –– The EU has blood on its hands.”

The launch of the campaign to Abolish Frontex coincides with plans to expand the agency. Frontex has secured a €5.6bn (£4.8bn) budget until 2027, with plans to increase its armed border patrols. Its budget has grown by more than 7,500% since 2005, and the new resources will help buy equipment such as ships, helicopters and drones.

The coalition has released a list of demands, including the abolition of the agency and the end of migrant detention by EU forces, and plan EU-wide protests, accusing Frontex of being “both avid promoter and key enforcer of Europe’s violent policies against people on the move”.

It comes after the EU’s anti-fraud office, Olaf, launched an investigation into Frontex in January over allegations of harassment, misconduct and unlawful operations aimed at stopping asylum seekers from reaching EU shores.

Europe has built more than 1,000km of border walls and fences.

Carola Rackete, a German ship captain who is one of the campaign organisers, said: ‘“If we truly believe all humans are equal then we have to dismantle the systems which keep inequality in place. Frontex, as part of the border-industrial complex, has no place in our vision of a European society striving for justice and committed to repairing damages inflicted on the global south in a mindset of white supremacy.”

Stéphanie Demblon, of Agir pour la Paix, said: “We are not asking for a better European migration policy: we are demanding the abolition of Frontex and the demilitarisation of the borders. And we are taking action to achieve this.”

Frontex did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.