26.2.2014 | Von:
Mechthild Baumann


Mit dem Slogan "Kein Mensch ist illegal" demonstrieren Studenten in Hamburg für Flüchtlinge aus Lampedusa. Carrying the slogan "No human being is illegal" students in Hamburg protest the treatment of refugees from Lampedusa. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Currently, as of 2014, the European Union extends along approximately 12,000 km of land borders and 45,000 km of maritime borders. In contrast to many other policy areas, the common policies for the EU’s external borders do not adhere to the aims originally set at their creation in the 1950s. On the contrary, from the very beginning, the EU’s founding fathers rooted four fundamental freedoms in the treaties, including the freedom of movement for Union citizens.

The EU border regime is a response to the freedom of movement that has existed since the mid-1990s. Since then, in an attempt to deter both criminal activity and illegal migration, the EU external borders have become ever more geographically extensively and rigorously secured. Nowadays, the EU border regime is usually equated with the border management agency, Frontex. Frontex is indeed a central player, but the EU border regime is much more than Frontex alone.

To shed some light on this topic, this dossier will begin with an explanation of who or what Frontex is and continue with an analysis of the current EU border regime. The final section closely scrutinizes the most recent developments of border security.


Illegal, Irregular, Unauthorized or Undocumented Migration?

“No One is Illegal” is the slogan of a popular human rights initiative. The designation for the external border security’s target group as “illegal” is faced with strong emotional controversy in public discourse and in political discussions.

The actor addressed here is either a person who is not a citizen of the country he or she wishes to enter and fails to present valid entry documents (passport and visa) or is in possession of falsified entry documents or who has entered the country with legal documents, yet stays longer than allowed under his or her visa (so-called “overstayers”).

In German residence law, the first two cases are referred to as cases of “unauthorized entry” (§14 AufenthG/Residence Act). They are also referred to as “illegal immigration”. The reference made here is to the non-legal act of crossing a border, which is a criminal offense under German law. It would be both politically and legally incorrect to speak of “illegal migrants” or “illegal immigrants” since it is not the people themselves who are illegal, but rather their act of crossing the border.

In critical migration research, attempts are made to avoid the classification of legal/illegal by preferring to use the description “irregular” or “undocumented”. The latter has taken hold in the French language in the term “sans papiers”.

This text is part of the policy brief on "Frontex and the EU Border Regime".

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