This week, Frontex Deputy Executive Director for Returns and Operations, Lars Gerdes, attended the ministerial conference “Effective EU External Borders Management” in Sofia.
The conference was chaired by Bulgaria’s Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister for Public Order and Security.
It gathered representatives of Member States' Ministers, State Secretaries and Ambassadors with an external EU land border with the aim to discuss the current migratory situation, identify a common approach to managing migration and address cross-border crime challenges.
In his speech, the Frontex Deputy Executive Director focused on challenges related to illegal border crossings, unauthorized secondary movements, cross-border crime and cooperation with third countries.
“In the last couple of years, the EU experienced various threats and increased challenges at its external borders. These have put at test the effectiveness of our border management. The unstable international environment contributed to the significant increase of irregular migration. The persisting challenges to EU external borders put lots of lives at risk, including the lives of border guards and police officers.
“It is our shared responsibility to manage the external EU borders and to guarantee the EU internal security. A lot has been done over the past years for making the EU stronger and resilient with robust border management system, yet we only have begun to address the various unconventional challenges, including hybrid threats. I am grateful for Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev's initiation to identify measures to ensure that current and future challenges are appropriately addressed in a spirit of solidarity with all Members States and with the support of EU agencies,” said Director Gerdes.
In 2022, around 330 000 irregular border crossings were detected at EU’s external border. This is the highest number since 2016 and an increase of 64% from the previous year. The Western Balkan route accounted for nearly half of the total. Separately, almost 13 million Ukrainian refugees were counted on entry at the EU's external land borders from Ukraine and Moldova between 24 February 2022 until the end of the year.