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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 15:34 GMT
Staff woes hit EU border agency
By Adam Easton
BBC News, Warsaw

Migrant boat off Tenerife
The Canary Islands are struggling with a migrant influx
Recruitment problems are plaguing the EU's border agency Frontex and may hamper its efforts to curb illegal immigration, its director says.

Ilkka Laitinen says some experts are unwilling to move to the agency's HQ in the Polish capital Warsaw.

He says this might cause projects to be cancelled and even endanger the lives of migrants making risky sea crossings.

Spain's Canary Islands saw a surge in African migrant numbers last year. Many try to get there in rickety boats.

Frontex is the first EU agency to be based in one of the new EU accession states.

On average a job position in the EU gets around 50 applicants. But Frontex has received on average just 13 candidates per post.

Mr Laitinen says that is partly because the salaries on offer are lower than in Western Europe and partly because the legal status of the agency's employees is still in limbo.

The agency's budget is set to nearly double this year, but without the staff, he believes its operations and the lives of illegal immigrants could be at risk.

"If we are not able to run enough and good joint operations by using appropriate modus operandi, it could increase the number of people in distress and also perhaps people who might drown on their way from the coast of departure."

At least 26,000 West Africans made the perilous sea crossing to reach the Canary Islands last year, five times the number in 2005.

An additional 4,000 were prevented from making that journey due to a Frontex-led operation last summer.

Mr Laitinen expects thousands of Africans will attempt the crossing this year.

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