13 July 2011

Frontex, how much are you costing me?

Flight destination
Operation Joint Return 2010
Number of deported Expenses in Euro
Three hudred thousand Euros to repatriate 21 Burundi nationals. Four hundred thousand for 56 Iraqis and an astounding half million for 60 Nigerians. The expulsion machine in Europe does not seem to know about crisis. At least, judging from the last annual report by Frontex, the agency for the patrol of the external borders of the European Union, which in one year managed to spend the fantastic sum of 8,525,782 Euros to repatriate 2,038 people. And the amount includes just travel costs, not the cost of detention in the identification centres nor the legal fees for the trials to validate the detention. In other words, in hindsight the much flaunted joint return operations have been a fiasco from the economical point of view as well. And to say that the idea was born precisely to save time and money. Instead of using scheduled flights, Frontex rents airplanes from private companies and makes them stop over in various European countries until they are filled only with passengers to expel and their respective police escort. Of the existence of these operations, no one makes a mystery anymore, all the member States collaborate, including Italy. And they brag about it. No one, however, till now, had told us how much they cost.

The countries with which Frontex was able to make agreements for the repatriations on chartered flights are not many: Nigeria, Cameroon, Gambia, Kosovo, Albania, Georgia, Armenia, Ecuador, Colombia, Burundi and Iraq. That’s right, even Iraq! Regarding the repatriations in Iraq of potential political refugees the debate is still very tense for the obvious risks that these people run in a country that is anything but peaceful. And yet countries such as the United Kingdom, Holland, Sweden, Norway and Austria had no qualms about loading their own Iraqi asylum seekers on chartered flights to Baghdad. Italy, from its own part participates mainly in the organisation of the flights to Nigeria and Cameroon, with sporadic participation in chartered flights to Kosovo, the Ukraine, and Colombia. The amounts are once again prohibitive.

A flight such as the one of 11 November from London, with 60 Nigerians who had been expelled to Lagos, cost the fantastic sum of 423,940 Euros. Still less than the 491,388 Euros spent to repatriate the 118 Colombians and Ecuadorians on the 26 January 2010 from Spain, Italy, France and Holland. And Burundi, proportionally, cost even more. The flight on 2 February 2010 to Bujumbura cost 273,206 Euros for just 21 passengers expelled from Sweden, Cyprus, Holland and Norway. Not to mention Iraq: on 9 June 2010 Frontex spent 392,363 Euros to take back to Baghdad 56 Iraqis expelled from Sweden, Holland and Norway after they saw their requests for political asylum denied.

The European Union which funds almost ten million Euros for 2,000 repatriations, is the same region where an estimated three million people live without residence documentation, and the same place where an estimated average of 100,000 people enter without documents every year from the Mediterranean Sea and from the oriental land borders, while hundreds of thousands of people come into our airports with visas that they will later allow to expire. All this while, without making a sound, hundreds of thousands of other people leave Europe to make the opposite journey, to return to their countries of origin in an autonomous way, to the point that in places such as Germany, Austria, and Holland the presence of the immigrant population has decreased by 10% in the past years, according to a Eurostat report.

And so one wonders why it’s necessary to spend so much money in repatriation operations and in general in the repressive machine against the mobility of non-European citizens, when it is scientifically proven that it is all useless. That people move from South to North and vice-versa regardless of immigration laws and the machine of expulsions. And that all the chaos created along our frontiers by the civil disobedience of those who want to peacefully violate the laws on immigration, is nothing more than oxygen for our democracy. If only we would understand that in 2011 mobility is everybody’s right. And that in two generations today’s policies will be viewed as the disgrace of our times. Times of crisis that are evidently not just economic, in which Europe prefers to invest ten million to expel 2,000 of its new citizens, rather than funding just as much to offer them concrete opportunities and services.

Here you can download Frontex’s 2010 Budget for joint repatriations via chartered flights.