14 Nov 2013

EU Borders and Their Controls: Preventing unwanted movement of people in Europe?

Elspeth Guild / Sergio Carrera

Download Publication


This Essay attempts to take a step back from the tragic event in the first week of October 2013, when a boat capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa and some 300 persons drowned seeking safe harbour. It sets out to examine the issue of EU border controls from the perspectives of the technologies, new and old, building on a variety of scholarly disciplines to understand what is happening to border controls on the movement of persons in the EU and why the results are so deadly.

The Essay opens with an overview of what actually happens at the EU’s external borders. It then moves on to assess the old and new set of border control technologies that are deployed at the EU external borders, and how new technologies such as those based on automated controls and biometrics, are transforming the classical principles of European border controls. It then covers the reasons why people are refused admission at the EU’s external borders and the extent to which new border and surveillance technologies would assist in the effective controls in light of EU border law. Conclusions are finally offered on the articulation between the facts of EU border controls on persons and the claims and proposals for new technologies that are emerging from the EU institutions.

Elspeth Guild is Senior Associate Fellow at CEPS and Jean Monnet Professor ad personam, Radboud University, Nijmegen and Queen Mary, University of London. Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Justice and Home Affairs section at CEPS.