European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has just deployed the first armed European coast guards, in accordance with a decision approved by the European Parliament in April 2019. The decision plans to increase its agents (who were 1,200 members detached of the state members before this decision) to 10,000 permanent members this year.
This new permanent body will, at the request of a member state, control borders, manage migration and combat cross-border crime. This body will cost five billion euros being half of what the European Commission requested in 2019. This budget was criticized by NGOs calling for less secure and more humane migration management.
The new border guards will be armed and wearing uniforms in the colours of the European Union. It is a first for Brussels and for the Member States which will have to share their prerogatives with the agency.
This major change came while Frontex has been facing criticism concerning its complicity in illegal practices in guarding the borders including brutal push-backs in the Aegean Sea, shooting at boats, and violence against migrants on the border between Bosnia and Croatia. The agency has always denied these charges that are currently being under investigation. Many Eurodeputies are working on this issue. Emily O'Reilly, European Ombudsman, started an investigation concerning the illegal practices of Frontex and the role and independence of the agency's “fundamental rights officer.”