Switzerland sceptical on EU plan to boost border force

Mediterranean countries have taken the brunt of migrant arrivals and are pushing for reform of EU policy. Keystone

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has expressed scepticism about European Union plans to expand the EU border force Frontex, and called for more cooperation on the refugee issue.

She was speaking after attending a meeting on Friday of EU ministers in Luxembourg that discussed the EU plans. The European Commission has proposed to boost the number of Frontex external border guards from 1,500 at present to 10,000 by 2020, but numerous states are sceptical. 

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but participates as a member of the “borderless” Schengen zone. 

Sommaruga said the proposed massive expansion of Frontex would only raise costs and could not replace “what each country must do in the context of its asylum policy”. She said national tasks also needed to be discussed “because they are still not resolved in some countries”. “This is a project that the European Commission needs to fundamentally revise,” said Sommaruga. 

She urged states to move forward on a common European asylum policy “with the same standards and rapid, fair asylum procedures”. 

Reform of EU asylum policy and the Dublin accords has been bogged down for years. The biggest sticking point is how refugees should be shared out among European countries. While Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece want compulsory quotas, east European countries such as Hungary and Poland are strongly opposed. 

According to the Dublin agreement, which Switzerland has adopted, an asylum application can be made only once – as a rule, in the first country in which the migrant is registered. In most cases, this is Italy or Greece.  

Sea arrivals of migrants stand at some 860,000 people so far this year, according to the UNHCR . This is a fraction of the mass influx in 2015 that overwhelmed EU states and stretched services.


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