EU's Juncker calls for 10,000 border guards by 2020

By Agence France-Presse

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called Wednesday for establishing a 10,000-strong EU border and coastguard force in two years, as the bloc bolsters efforts to reduce migration.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN) European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

The European Union is under massive political pressure to further cut the flow of migrants to the bloc after having sharply reduced arrivals since a 2015 peak as a result of cooperation with Turkey and Libya.

"The European Commission is today proposing to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard to better protect our external borders with an additional 10,000 European border guards by 2020," Juncker said in his state of the union speech to the European Parliament.

The goal, if achieved, would be a significant boost from the current pan-EU force of 1,300 staff to help individual member states patrol their borders.

The commission has also proposed spending 2.2 billion euros in the next seven-year EU budget to buy and maintain planes, boats and vehicles to patrol entry points from Africa and the Middle East.

In 2015, the EU faced its worst migration crisis since World War II when more than one million asylum seekers entered the bloc, sowing chaos and political division.

The latest tensions have flared over decisions by Italy, which has a new populist anti-migration government, to turn away rescue ships carrying African migrants.

The commission is also proposing the border force have greater powers to deport people classified as economic migrants who are fleeing poverty and seeking jobs.

Under international law, economic migrants can be deported but not people who have a genuine case for asylum, including refugee status.

EU officials consider most of the arrivals from Africa to be economic migrants eligible for deportation.