billions, failures and barbed wire”, France 2 dives behind the scenes of Fortress Europe


Europe must not become a fortress, it respects all the rights of migrants and it will never finance the construction of barbed wire walls on its borders. This is the essence of the official remarks made by the European institutions since the Syrian crisis, which precipitated millions of migrants on the roads in 2015-2016.

No infringement of rights? NGOs, media, elected officials document the illegal – and sometimes violent – ​​pushbacks carried out in various places by border guards, under the passive and sometimes active eye of officers from Frontex, the European border guard agency . Based in Warsaw, destined to become a juggernaut of 10,000 civil servants, Frontex will have a budget of 900 million euros by 2027 (it was 98 million in 2014).

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Frontex, the fall of a “French affair”

Quickly, in a tense political context marked by the rise of populist discourse, the institution led by the Frenchman Fabrice Leggeri – who resigned on April 29 following an investigation by the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) of the EU – has tried to come to terms with its situation, which is sometimes considered schizophrenic.


“Additional investigation” chronicles this schizophrenia. Between the most intransigent countries of the Union and those who demand respect for the values ​​put forward by Europe, the leaders of the EU have improvised. They negotiated agreements with Turkey and Morocco to prevent flows to European territory, turned a blind eye to the dramatic situation in Libya and let Frontex swell without monitoring its operation and its missions.

Read also: Frontex cannot free itself from European values

OLAF investigators, in addition to cases of “harassment and misconduct”, have confirmed the involvement of Frontex agents in illegal push-backs in Greece and Hungary. The European Court of Auditors, for its part, deplored the poor organization of the agency on the ground, while NGOs highlighted its increasingly close links with the surveillance and armament sector. Which is, today, one of the main beneficiaries of the new border control market, which is experiencing annual growth close to 8%.

The surveillance and armament sector is, today, one of the main beneficiaries of the new border control market

Fabrice Leggeri maintained a certain vagueness on the real reasons for his resignation: is it a questioning of certain practices of the agency or does it illustrate the fact that the current mission devolved to Frontex is almost impossible? This is the haunting question posed by the title of the documentary by Lilya Melkonian, Antoine Husser and Baptiste Rimbert, Borders: billions, failures and barbed wire.

Some 23 billion euros in total have been spent so far to ensure a closure – still uncertain moreover – of the Old Continent. Among the major beneficiaries of this windfall, there is for example this Spanish barbed wire manufacturer, who, filmed with a hidden camera, unashamedly exposes his alleged buyers to his latest finds: colored or electrified wires supposed to better scare candidates for crossing . Or these harpoon-shaped blades which cannot be removed from the flesh without the intervention of the emergency services.

At a time when Europe is opening its borders without reservation to Ukrainians fleeing the war, Tristan Waleckx will conclude the evening with Abdullah Kurdi, the father of Aylan, this little Syrian boy who died drowned in the Mediterranean in 2015, whose photo had shocked the whole world. In an interview recorded in the city of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, he denounces the two-speed reception of the European Union, which is less generous with regard to non-European refugees.

Not a fortress, Europe? Really ?

Borders: billions, failures and barbed wire, documentary by Lilya Melkonian, Antoine Husser and Baptiste Rimbert (Fr., 2022, 52 min). Aired as part of the show “Further investigation”presented by Tristan Waleckx, on France 2.

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