Frontex's Executive Director Hans Leijtens reacts during a hearing at the EU Parliament Frontex Scrutiny Working Group Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, in the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 04 December 2023. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER MATTHYS


Head of Frontex: ‘Nothing can stop people from crossing a border’


There is “nothing” that EU authorities can do that will prevent migrants from entering the continent, the head of the bloc’s border control agency has said.

Hans Leijtens, the executive director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, stated in an interview that all attempts to secure the union’s external borders will not work.

“To put it bluntly, nothing can stop people from crossing a border, no wall, no fence, no sea, no river,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s pretended that you can just put a lid on top of the bottle, and then the migration stops.”

“But that’s a misconception.”

Leitjens went on to express sympathy for those crossing into Europe illegally, arguing that he would do the same were he in their position.

“Who am I to condemn migrants?” he asked. “I’m sitting here in my office in Warsaw, I could of course do that – but that would be too easy.”

“This talk of ‘stopping people’ and ‘closing borders’ can’t be our narrative all the time. My job is to strike a balance between effective border management and respect for fundamental rights.”

The Dutchman said he wanted to steer the entire European migration debate in a new direction, with “increased humanity, less fear of the unknown, less prejudice”.

He did mention a four-step plan, to create what he called the “necessary good border management, especially in the central Mediterranean.”

Frontex’s official role is to guarantee “secure and well-functioning external borders” in collaboration with the European Union Member States. It has a current budget of €859 million.

Leijtens has been leading Frontex since March 2023. He started his career in the Dutch military and later joined the civil service. He led the tax administration in the Netherlands between 2015 and 2017, which partially coincided with the 2005-2019 childcare benefits scandal, before taking other leading positions.

In 2019, Dutch media reported he “forgot” to declare €40,000 of work-related expenses covering air and rail travel, overnight stays and dinners.

Leijtens is married to Monica den Boer, a former MP with the left-liberal D66 party.