Interview Conducted By Peter Müller
As head of the EU border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri has one of the hardest jobs in Europe. Tasked with protecting the external borders of the Schengen area, he is keenly aware of just how fragile the zone has become as a result of the refugee crisis.
Fabrice Leggeri knows his borders. He headed a unit within the French Interior Ministry that dealt with cross-border traffic, and he helped draft the communique to the European Commission that recommended creating Frontex, the European Union’s external border agency. Since Leggeri took up his position as the head of Frontex in January 2015, Europe’s migrant crisis has taken on a whole new dimension. Millions of refugees fleeing war and poverty have flocked to the Continent, and their arrival has tested the very limits of one of the EU’s greatest achievements: its open borders. Leggeri knows the stakes are high: If his agency can’t manage to secure Europe’s outer borders, Schengen could collapse.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Leggeri, Turkey is seen as playing a crucial role in handling the refugee crisis. Is the government there doing enough to limit the influx of migrants to Europe?
Leggeri: No. Taking care of 2 million Syrian refugees is, of course, a burden for Turkey. I appreciate that. But if Ankara is going to demand sweeping concessions, such as a relaxation of visa requirements for its citizens, we Europeans should be able to expect more in return in the form of more stringent border controls.
SPIEGEL: As the head of the EU border agency Frontex, what do you have in mind?
Leggeri: Turkey should make life more difficult for the human-traffickers. These are organized criminals we’re talking about. The Turkish police have the responsibility and the opportunity to put them out of business. At the very least, we expect Turkey to provide us with information: How many refugees can we expect? And where are they going to arrive?
SPIEGEL: Once migrants are at sea, the Greek coast guard has no other choice but to bring them back to Greece.