News / World

EU border official skeptical about Trump's Mexico wall idea

WASHINGTON — A top European security official on Thursday expressed skepticism about President-elect Donald Trump's idea of building a wall to prevent illegal migrants from coming to the United States from Mexico.

Fabrice Leggeri, executive director of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, told reporters that building physical barriers does not solve the underlying problems that are causing migration: poverty and conflict.

"This doesn't address the root cause of this phenomenon," Leggeri said, adding that some European Union member states have erected fences between them.

Illegal migration has become a hot topic both in the United States and in Europe. During the election campaign, Trump has referred to Mexican migrants as "rapists," promised to build a wall with Mexico and deport illegal migrants from the U.S., causing a lot of criticism. In the E.U., anti-migrant sentiment has contributed to Brexit, a decision by British voters over the summer to leave the European Union.

While Leggeri stressed that it was important to keep borders secure and screen migrants for potential crime and terrorism, working together with neighbouring countries, having rapid response teams and conducting risk analysis may be as effective as building walls.

"The way to implement this proper management can rely on many tools, it is not necessarily (a) physical wall, but there are a set of tools," Leggeri said. "And co-operation with neighbouring countries, according to European experience, is also a way to improve the management of the border."

The EU is facing a huge refugee crisis, prompted by wars and destitution in the Middle East and Africa. Last year, some 1.2 million migrants came to Europe and some 3,770 died on the way as they tried to cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded and unsafe boats.

Leggeri said he hoped for robust co-operation with U.S. authorities under the new administration, adding that such ties contribute to global stability.

"When it comes to the management of the external border ... we have this strong partnership between both sides of the Atlantic because it is in the common interest," Leggeri said. "Your security is our security, our security is your security."

Leggeri said that with irregular migration becoming global, partnership between nations is necessary to predict and manage refugee flows, fight terrorism and organized crime.

"One can imagine that there is a kind of global market for irregular migration, so risk analysis with our American counterparts could also take a look at this," he said.