Open borders NGO Sea Watch wants to take over ‘patrol’ of Mediterranean from EU’s Frontex border agency

By John Cody
3 Min Read

Although Frontex is tasked with protecting the EU’s borders, German NGO Sea Watch, which has taken part in controversial operations to ferry migrants to Europe, says it could do a better job than Frontex, arguing that it could help migrants reach Europe instead of trying to stop them.

Sea Watch and other migrant boat NGOs are a major concern for Italy, which has instituted new laws that hit these ships with sanctions for their activities encouraging illegal immigration. The NGO is now demanding the EU take action to force Italy into dropping the sanctions. However, in addition to its efforts to exert its influence on domestic Italian politics, Sea Watch is going a step further, arguing it should take on the role of patrolling the Mediterranean instead of Frontex, albeit with a different agenda regarding the record number of immigrants headed toward Europe.

Sea Watch pointed to the hefty costs Airbus is charging the EU’s Frontex to operate patrol drones over the Mediterranean after one of Airbus’ Heron 1 drones crashed off the coast of Crete.

“One of the two Frontex drones crashed in the Mediterranean Sea. Operated by Airbus, it has been in service since 2022, is based in Crete and costs €50 million for the measly 3,000 flight hours,” wrote Sea Watch on X. “For that money our #Seabird 1 and 2 aircraft could be operational for over 25 years,” it added.

Sea Watch appears to be implying it could take over the role of patrol and surveillance in an area where it has been accused of encouraging illegal immigration.

The NGO further criticized Frontex’s mission, which is greatly at odds with Sea Watch, writing: “Equipped with cutting-edge technologies, from cameras to radar systems, it has even managed to track satellite phones. The task: locate the fleeing people and prevent them from reaching Europe.”

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NGOs have taken on an expanded role in the European Union’s operations, but Sea Watch’s proposal raises the specter of one of the most pro-migration NGOs in Europe being tasked with “policing” Europe’s borders. Sea Watch is not only backed by the German government but also receives ample funding from the country’s evangelical church.

Over two dozen activists, including from Sea Watch, were arrested by Greek police and charged with human trafficking in 2020. Critics argue that the boats encourage migrants to take on risky journeys with the expectation that they will be rescued; in some cases, they have been investigated for coordinating with human traffickers to pick up migrants at designated points and ferry them directly into Europe.

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