The Peculiar Nature of EU Home Affairs Agencies in Migration Control: Beyond Accountability versus Autonomy?

in European Journal of Migration and Law
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This article analyses the development paths and practices of three EU Home Affairs agencies: Frontex, Europol and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). Particular attention is given to those tasks and forms of inter-agency cooperation raising fundamental rights sensitivities in the scope of migration controls. The article argues that the specific Home Affairs focus of these agencies and their ways of working, including the use of ‘experimental governance’ strategies, poses particular challenges to individuals on the move, specifically in relation to their right to an effective remedy. These findings are linked to the academic debate on the balance between accountability and autonomy of EU Agencies. Due to their peculiar nature, evidenced by several cross-cutting commonalities potentially impacting on basic rights of individuals, we argue that this balance metaphor is not appropriate for these Agencies; instead higher standards of accountability should apply with closer on-going control over their activities.

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    J.J. Rijpma (2012) ‘Hybrid agencification in the Area of Freedom Security and Justice and its inherent tensions: The case of Frontex’ in: M. Busuioc M. Groenleer and J. Trondal (eds) The agency phenomenon in the European Union: Emergence institutionalisation and everyday decision-making Manchester: Manchester University Press pp. 84–102.

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    For instance: C. Curtin (2009) Executive Power of the European Union: Law Practices and the Living Constitution Oxford: University Press; R. Dehousse ‘Delegation of powers in the European Union: The need for a multi-principals model’ 31 West European Politics (2008) 789–805.

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    Busuioc Curtin and Groenleer (2011) p. 849.

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    Bovens (2007) p. 450.

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    See Baldaccini (2010).

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    See Carrera S. and Guild E. (2010) ‘Joint Operation RABIT 2010’ – FRONTEX Assistance to Greece’s Border with Turkey: Revealing the Deficiencies of Europe’s Dublin Asylum System Papers in Liberty and Security in Europe (34) Brussels: CEPS.

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    M. Shapiro (2011) ‘Independent Agencies’ in: P. Craig and G. De Búrca G. (eds) The Evolution of EU Law Oxford: Oxford University Press pp. 111–120. To give some examples of ‘soft law’: Frontex issued a Code of Conduct for its operations and builds a common curriculum for border guards (resp. Articles 2a and 5 of the new Frontex Regulation) and EASO is also mandated to give trainings to officials (Article 6 EASO Regulation).

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    Busuioc (2010) p. 189.

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    Rijpma (2012) pp. 13 and 19.

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    ECtHR Grand Chamber 23 February 2012Hirsi and others v. Italy Application No. 27765/09.

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    ECtHR 21 January 2011MSS v. Belgium and Greece Application No. 30696/09 paras 233 234 263 264 366−368; see also S. Troller (2011) On the borders of legality – Why Frontex forces should stop filling Greek jails with asylum seekers New York NY: Human Rights Watch available online at

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    House of Lords (2008) Europol: Coordinating the Fight against Serious and Organised Crime 29th Report Session 2007–2008 Select Committee on the European Union London: The Stationary Office p. 58.

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    Europol (2011) Europol Review: General Report on Europol Activities 2010 The Hague: Europol 3 May p. 14.

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    See for instance E. Brouwer (2010) ‘Extraterritorial Migration Control and Human Rights: Preserving the Responsibility of the EU and its Member States’ in B. Ryan and V. Mitsilegas (eds) Extraterritorial Immigration Control: Legal Challenges Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff pp. 199–228.

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    Europol (2011) EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report TE-SAT 2011 The Hague 19 April.

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    J. Parkin (2012) EU Home Affairs Agencies and the Construction of Internal Security Papers in Liberty and Security Series (53) Brussels: CEPS; see also Pollack and Slominski (2009) p. 908.

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    D. Bigo (1996) Police en Réseaux: L’expérience européenne Presses de Sciences Po Paris pp. 258–266.

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    See for instance: FrontexProgramme of Work 2009 p. 24.

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    Frontex (2011) Fundamental Rights Strategy Warsaw March.

  • 71)

    Resp. UNHCR (2008) UNHCR agreement with Frontex Press Release Geneva 17 June ( For an example of one of the outcomes of this cooperation see UNHCR (2011) Protection Training Manual for European Border and Entry Officials Geneva 1 April available online at See also: Cooperation Agreement between Frontex and the FRA 26 May 2010 available online at

  • 82)

    See Baldaccini (2010) p. 230; see also Amnesty International and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) Briefing on the Commission proposal for a Regulation amending Council Regulation (EC) 2007/2004 establishing Frontex London and Brussels September 2010.

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    Frontex (2011) Hermes 2011 starts tomorrow in Lampedusa News Release Warsaw 19 February available online at; Frontex (2011) Hermes 2011 up and running News Release Warsaw 22 February 2011 available online at

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    See J. Shenker‘Aircraft carrier left us to die, say migrants’The Guardian8 May 2011 available online at; and ‘Libyan migrants’ boat deaths to be investigated by Council of Europe’ The Guardian 9 May 2011 available online at See also: Reuters ‘NATO France deny failing to save Libyan migrants’ 9 May 2011 available online at

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  • 87)

    T. Strik (2012) Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is responsible? Report for the Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Migration Refugees and Displaced Persons Council of Europe. See also L. den Hertog (2012) Two Boats in the Mediterranean and their Unfortunate Encounters with Europe’s Policy towards People on the Move Papers in Liberty and Security in Europe (48) Brussels: CEPS.

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    Refer to S. Carrera and B. Petkova (2012) ‘The role and potential of civil society and human rights organizations through third party interventions before the European Courts: The case of the EU’s Area of Freedom Security and Justice’ in: M. Dawson E. Muir and B. De Witte (eds) Judicial Activism at the Court of Justice: Causes Responses and Solutions Cheltenham: Edward Elgar forthcoming; See also S. Carrera M. De Somer and B. Petkova (2012) The Court of Justice of the European Union as a Fundamental Rights Tribunal Papers in Liberty and Security in Europe (49) Brussels: CEPS.

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    See e.g. European Ombudsman (2012) and UN Human Rights Council Report of the Special Rapporteur (Mr Crépeau) on the human rights of migrants – Regional study: management of the external borders of the EU and its impact on the human rights of migrants 23rd session Doc. A/HRC/23/46 Geneva 24.04.2013.

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