Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said there are 5,000 fewer border officials than the amount declared by EU member states. Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag: “We have noticed that the EU states have reported 115,000 border officials on paper altogether. That’s not true. That surprised me a lot.” The significant gap in the workforce available to Frontex came to light during an internal stress test.
Mr Leggeri said the agency is currently discussing with member states why there are thousands of officers missing – but didn’t disclose which countries were guilty of not providing enough personnel.
The border agency was set up in 2005 but has taken on an increasing number of tasks since its formation – including missions outside the bloc.
The agency is set for a 34 percent budget increase next year, according to a draft budget proposal published by the European Commission last week.
This means Frontex, which is headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, may be receive £375.36m (€420.6m) in 2020, a sum which will help the agency set up a standing corps of 10,000 border guards by 2027.
Frontex recently launched its first mission outside the EU.
Mr Leggeri announced in May Frontex guards will be patrolling “shoulder to shoulder” with Albanian police to halt illegal immigrants heading to western Europe across the Balkans.
The Frontex chief had already warned migrants are seeking new pathways to reach Europe following the 2015 migrant crisis, which saw millions of people entering the EU from its eastern borders.
Last year, Spain was Mr Leggeri’s “biggest worry”, with thousands of migrants crossing northern Africa to reach Spain via Morocco.
This year, most migrants seem to be getting to Turkey via the land and sea border to later cross eastern Europe from there.
According to the United Nation’s refugee organisation (UNHCR), Syrians escaping the devastation in their country make up around 10 percent of those arriving.
And as many as 15 percent of the refugees come from Afghanistan.
The number of recorded illegal crossings at the EU’s external border has declined significantly since the height of the refugee crisis, but the situation remains critical.
In the first four months of the year, Frontex counted 24,000 illegal entries.
That was 27 percent less than in the same period of the previous year.
In the future, Frontex will also be responsible for the introduction of a European Esta system, which will track the entry and exit of non-EU citizens.
And it will also assist member states in the deportation of rejected asylum seekers.
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)