'Drastic' Increase in Illegal Immigration Attempts Despite EU's €340m Border Surveillance System

'Drastic' Increase in Illegal Immigration Attempts Despite EU's €340m Border Surveillance System

Eurosur, the EU’s new €340m border surveillance system meant to intercept illegal migrants trying to get across the Mediterranean has so far proved useless. Since it was launched in December, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of sea-crossing attempts by migrants.

Gil Aria Fernandez, deputy director at Frontex, the EU’s border agency, described the increase as “drastic,” in an interview with EU Observer.

Data collected by the agency showed that between January and April this year, around 42,000 attempted crossings were detected, three times the number of the same period in 2013. About 25,000 detections were made at sea, with the Italian air and sea operation Mare Nostrum reporting most of them.

Eurosur is also meant to detect cross-border crime and save the lives of migrants attempting to make the treacherous crossing from North Africa to Europe. “Unfortunately for the time-being, it does not fulfil this service,” said Fernandez.

Critics say that while the EU projects the budget to 2020 for Eurosur to be €244m, some MEPs estimate costs will rise beyond €340m.

When the service was agreed last year, Manfred Weber, a German conservative MEP, denounced it as “a sham.”

Eurosur was launched despite opposition by Green and left-wing members of the European Parliament, who insisted the EU did not need more protection against migrants and asylum seekers, but instead had to provide rescue for people attempting to make illegal entry by sea.

The German Left Party in the parliament denounced Eurosur as “an investment programme for the armaments industry,” because national border forces gather information by satellite and military aircraft.

Green MEPs talked about an expansion of ‘Fortress Europe’.

The European Commission says that most of the migrants are fleeing conflicts and most likely qualify for international protection.

But according to EU Observer, Italian authorities complain they do not receive enough support from the EU. Italy’s interior minister Angelino Alfano on Tuesday threatened to release the migrants it intercepts to seek asylum in other member states in defiance of EU rules.