Archive for the 'Frontex' Category

Freedom, not Frontex

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Freedom, not Frontex
There cannot be democracy without global freedom of movement

The dynamic of the Arab spring is emanating into the entire world. The movements of revolt in the Maghreb encourage and give hope, not only because despotic regimes that have been believed invincible were chased away. Although the direction of further developments remain open it is obvious that the domino effect of the Tunisian jasmine revolution swiftly brought back the old insight that history is driven from below. The struggles are directed against the day-to-day poverty as well as against general oppression, they are as much about better living conditions as they are about dignity, in short: “bread and roses”.
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US embassy cables: Greece and migration

The Guardian released two embassy cables provided by the by now well-known wikileaks cablegate that report on the Greek government’s position and strategy on dealing with irregular migration. This article provides a short summary of the contents. Both reports were written shortly after the change of government in October 2009, in December and February respectively. They don’t offer any surprising insight, but sketch some policy lines.

  1. Greece tackles migration and asylum issues. 4th of December 2009
  2. Greece revamps security service and tackles immigration. 1st of February 2010

The first embassy cable, Greece tackles migration and asylum issues confirms that asylum and migration are high priority to the new government, both on a domestic as well as on a European level. From the summary:

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Riot at the Fylakion detention centre

Our friends from Clandestina alert us to the fact that

…last Tuesday (4th of December), a riot broke out, one of the most serious to date, at the detention centre at Fylakion in the Evros region, near the town of Orestiada and the FRONTEX headquarters at the Greco-Turkish border. According to the policemen guarding the centre, the sans papiers immigrants short-circuited the electricity network causing a blackout, blocked the sewer system causing the overflow of waste and caused minor damages to the centre’s building.

Special police forces were called in from Orestiada and the sans papiers welcomed them by throwing chlorine detergent at them. They had been supplied bottles of chlorine so that they keep the prison clean by themselves, since no cleaning service is provided for the 3-year old detention centre, where up to 1000 refugees, including families with small children, are being held in a building designed to temporarily host 350 people at a time – with bad water, few toilets, no showers, and no medical or legal help.

During the riot, four sans papiers are said to have escaped.

picture credit: image of Fylakio detention centre taken from wikipedia

On the details of the upcoming RABIT mission [2 Updates]

We are monitoring the situation around the upcoming RABIT deployment to Greece. As it seems, Greece has requested 160 175 officers to be sent to Greece.

  • Denmark will contribute five to six officers, which will be able to travel within the next four days.
  • Sweden will contribute a handful of officers.
  • France has announced to mobilise the entire French RABIT pool.
  • Update 2, 4.11.2010:
  • Germany has announced to provide up to 40 officers, plus 7 patrol cars and 4 thermo vision vans (source: Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 4.11.2010)
  • The Netherlands will send 14 officers of the Royal Military Police (RMP) and 2 officers of the Rotterdam Seaport Police. These 16 will be in action until December 1 and will then be replaced by other Dutch units.

Update 30.10.2010: Frontex released a third press statement. They will deploy 175 border guards and a additional technical equipment:

In total, 175 border-control specialists have been made available by the 26 Member States and Schengen-Associated Countries participating in the first ever RABIT deployment. Joint Operation (JO) RABIT 2010 will also see an unprecedented quantity of technical equipment and other logistical and administrative support. All the costs incurred by Member States in relation to the deployment will be reimbursed by Frontex.

The specialisations of guest officers deployed will include experts in false documents, clandestine entry, first and second-line border checks and stolen vehicles as well as dog handlers and specialist interviewers, debriefers and interpreters. All RABIT officers receive mandatory human rights awareness training as part of their RABIT training by Frontex and in addition, special briefings will be held on the spot as a provision of JO RABIT 2010.

The deployment is scheduled to commence on 2 November 2010, with an anticipated duration of up to two months.

  • 1 Helicopter (Romania)
  • 1 Bus (Romania)
  • 5 Minibuses (1 Romania, 2 Austria, 1 Bulgaria, 1 Hungary)
  • 19 Patrol cars (4WD) (7 Romania, 3 Austria, 2 Slovakia, 7 Germany)
  • 9 Thermo Vision Vans (2 Austria, 2 Bulgaria, 4 Germany, 1 Hungary)
  • 3 Schengen buses (1 Austria, 2 Hungary)
  • 3 office units from Denmark

Developing story, we will update this post.

Frontex acknowledges Greek RABIT request

Frontex has granted the request of the Greek government for the deployment of the Rapid Border Intervention Teams in the Evros border.

From their press release (25th of October 2010):

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Frontex Rapid Border Intervention Teams to patrol the Evros border

The deployment of European border guard forces at the Greek-Turkish border increases the danger of readmitting refugees to Turkey and from there to their country of origin, where they are put at risk of facing human rights violations. The European Union should meet its obligations and ensure refugees’ protection and well-being.

Greece requested the European Union to send armed so called Frontex Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) to the Greek-Turkish border. This became public on Monday the 25th of October 2010.
Greek government statistics state that irregular migration has been increasing in the Evros-Region where the land broder to Turkey stretches over 12 km. According to the Greek Minister of Citizens’ Protection Christos Papoutsis only during the first October weekend of this year 1,400 refugees have been intercepted in that region.

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Samos Report

This is a first interim report of this year’s Swarming No Border activities in Greece. The first stop was Samos, an island in the Aegean sea, close to the Turkish mainland. The proximity to Turkey is why many migrants arrive here and consequently Frontex is stationed here too. Together with activists from Samos, we organised an anti-racist weekend during our stay there.

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“Please don’t paint…”

Today, Saturday, was the designated Frontex action day in Samos. We scored our first victory in the morning when all coast guard and Frontex ships withdrew from the port, disappearing somewhere. Up to now, they have not returned. The image below shows where they usually park their ships during the day… it is empty. We demilitarised, de-frontexisised Vathy, at least for a day.

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First Words from Samos

In the last few days we gradually arrived in Samos and found a totally unexpected situation. The huge detention centre above Vathy is empty, all detainees have been transferred off the island, presumably to Athens, where they are either held in another detention facility or are released with the infamous White Paper.

Currently, there is an Italian Guardia Frontera ship in the harbour representing FRONTEX. The Dutch coast guard is present with a speedboat. From our observations, the latter basically go around and drink coffee at the various beaches. The Greek coast guard has two boats in Vathy, one of them is broken, though. The Italian Frontex ship leaves every night at 10 p.m. and returns in the early morning – but these days they are not very “successful”: According to what they say, they have not caught anybody during the last weeks. Inhabitants told us that still some people arrive on the island but without being caught. But compared to last year, arrivals have dropped dramatically. According to a chatty coast guard officer most refugees now choose the route via the Evros region in the north of Greece. The few people caught on the island are imprisoned in one of three police stations on the island and usually not taken to the detention centre, but sent to Athens straight.

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Frontex office delayed?

Well, well, nothing is ever moving as fast as said. A new article in The Economist brings the news that apparently, the opening of Frontex’ Branch Office in the port of Piraeus will be delayed until October, after it was supposed to first open in spring, then in August.

There are two more aspects in the article that are worth noting, summarised in this paragraph:

So Brussels is sending in the cavalry. Frontex, a Warsaw-based agency created in 2004 to manage the EU’s external borders, will open a pilot office in the Greek port of Piraeus in October. Earlier this month its executive director, Ilkka Laitinen, went to Athens to finalise the plan with Greece’s home-affairs minister, Michalis Chrisochoidis. There was much talk of “milestones” and “adding value”. But there were hints of frustration behind the smiles. Mr Chrisochoidis welcomed the symbolism of the move but says in practical terms it will be “a drop in the ocean”. As for Frontex, squeezed by budgetary and personnel constraints, Mr Laitinen politely describes its job as “a challenge”.

Well, the Economist might have it the wrong way, since it also credits to job of managing the EU’s external borders to Frontex, which is not really true. However, the image of the cavalry is interesting, as it might still be sufficiently describing the role of Frontex in Greece: They don’t come to support, they don’t come to coordinate, they come to get the job done, and that by any means necessary. We have already described what that means: Maximising border “security” by all means, minimising the respect for human rights and international law. Or is this again a misconception, citing the drop in the ocean? We will be in Greece to find out.

About w2eu

This is the blog of the antiracist network Welcome to Europe. It was formerly known as


The name Welcome to Europe expresses the discontent and anger we feel when looking at the fatal realities of the European external border: the long documented deaths and suffering have continued for years, and no end is in sight. We stand for a grassroots movement that embraces migration and wants to create a Europe of hospitality.


We maintain our focus on the European external border in Greece, but will not limit ourselves to that geographical area. The right of freely roaming the globe has to be fought for everywhere. Join us!


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