France is making a major change in policing the Italian frontier near Monaco. Policing the French border is, at the best of times, nowadays, a real challenge. France has a special force of Frontier guards to do it, PAF (Police at the Frontier).
The French border close to Monaco, specifically the frontier with Italy, is considered to be among the most challenging, if not the most challenging, of all the frontier policing commands. That is why there has been a special ceremony, attracting VIPs in command positions from France and Italy and politicians to introduce the new divisional Commander of the border patrol of 106 PAF guards, officially centred at Menton. Noticeably present were Jean-Claude Guibal, Mayor of Menton and Gwenaelle Chapuis, deputy-prefect of Nice-Montagne.
The new divisional Commander’s name is Patrick Maurin and he has his work cut out. Some say it is almost an impossible job to do perfectly. Certainly no one would envy the task he has ahead of him. Consider just one statistic. In 2017 there were a little over 50.000 illegal immigrants intercepted attempting to cross the border at Menton from Italy to France. Since 2014, 160.000 have been intercepted.
Under the Schengen accord, borders between countries within the European community, including Italy and France were supposed to almost disappear. People legally in the European Community were, like their counterparts in the United States, supposed to travel virtually invisibly across internal state borders like that between France and Italy. That concept has come under threat in practice due to the recent vast waves of immigration mainly from Africa and the Middle East. It has changed the politics and governing structures in Germany and Italy. It has caused border crises in Calais between France and the UK.
It is to Patrick Maurin and his command of frontier guards to whom falls the job of policing close to Monaco – and what is one of Europe’s and France’s internal hotspots in terms of immigration control, which is at the Italian border with Menton. Patrick has been launched into his position with ceremony by his Regional Commander Jean-Philippe Nahon. Jean-Philippe reminds everyone just how sensitive the job is. It is a key role without equivalent in France and requires a major cooperative effort among customs, local police, mobile patrols, the military at times, Trans-Alpine Frontier guards, not to mention SNCF and management of the autoroute. Which is why so many in the governance of these organizations came to pay their respects.
Illegal immigration, human traffickers, terrorists, it is a rocky terrain indeed protecting frontiers. The responsibility is immense. And enforcing the law equitably means engaging with human beings whether victims of circumstance or criminals. This requires tact as well as a firm hand. There is a human dimension to the job that involves sensitivity and compassion while guaranteeing national security through enforcing the law.
This is a historic time, and if anything, the challenges may intensify. Criminality, terrorism and waves of immigration are constant reminders that the Patrick Maurins of the world play key roles in our protection.