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Frontex (legally: European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union)
Frontex logo.png
Motto Libertas Securitas Justitia
"Liberty Security Justice"
Formation 26 October 2004 (ratified)
1 May 2005 (established)
Fabrice Leggeri
€ 142.6 million (2015)
344 (2015)

Frontex (from French: Frontières extérieures for "external borders") is an agency established in 2004 to manage the cooperation between national border guards securing its external borders. Frontex operations aim to detect and stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorist infiltration. The agency has its seat in Warsaw, Poland.


Frontex was established by Council Regulation (EC) 2007/2004.[2] It began work on 3 October 2005 and was the first EU agency to be based in one of the new EU member states from 2004. Frontex' mission is to help European Union member states implement EU rules on external border controls and to coordinate cooperation between member states in external border management. While it remains the task of each member state to control its own borders, Frontex is vested to ensure that they all do so with the same high standard of efficiency. The agency's main tasks according to the Council Regulation are:[2]

  • coordinate cooperation between member states in external border management
  • assisting member states in training of national border guards.
  • carrying out risk analyses.
  • following research relevant for the control and surveillance of external borders.
  • helping member states requiring technical and operational assistance at external borders.
  • providing member states with the necessary support in organising joint return operations.

Staff and resources[edit]

Office complex Warsaw Spire – seat of Frontex in Warsaw

The institution is centrally and hierarchically organised with a management board, consisting of one person of each member state as well as two members of the Commission. The member states representatives are operational heads of national security services concerned with border guard management. Frontex also has representatives from and works closely with Europol and Interpol. The Management Board is the leading component of the agency, controlling the personal, financial, and organisational structure, as well as initiating operative tasks in annual work programmes. Additionally, the Board appoints the Executive Director. The first and incumbent Director was Ilkka Laitinen.

The agency initially struggled to recruit staff[3] due to its location in Warsaw, which offered lower pay than some other cities, and the unclear agency mandate. As of February 2012, the Frontex website listed its secretariat as consisting of 272 seconded national experts, temporary, auxiliary and contract staff. [4][dead link] The dependency of the organisation on staff secondments has been identified by external auditors as a risk, since valuable experience may be lost when such staff leave the organisation and return to their permanent jobs. [5]

Special European Border Forces of rapidly deployable border guards, called Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) who are armed and patrol cross-country land borders, were created by EU interior ministers in April 2007 to assist in border control, particularly on Europe's southern coastlines.[6] Frontex's European Patrols Network began work in the Canary Islands in May 2007[7] and armed border force officers were deployed to the Greco-Turkish border in October 2010.[8]

Besides EU members other Schengen area countries such as Iceland may carry out naval, land and air surveillance patrols; Iceland sent the Naval coast guard vessel Ægir to Frontex patrols in the Atlantic ocean south of Canary islands and the Mediterranean in 2010.[9] Frontex uses satellite tracking of air and land borders as well as the EU-funded Sea Horse advanced satellite system to track ships.[10]

Risk analysis reports[edit]

Frontex regularly releases reports analyzing events related to border control, irregular border crossing and different forms of cross-border crime. The general task of assessing these risks has been laid out in FRONTEX founding regulation, according to which the agency shall "carry out risk analyses [...] in order to provide the Community and the Member States with adequate information to allow for appropriate measures to be taken or to tackle identified threats and risks with a view to improving the integrated management of external borders".[2] FRONTEX's key institution with respect to intelligence and risk assessment is its Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) and the FRONTEX Risk Analysis Network (FRAN), via which the FRONTEX staff is cooperating with security experts from the Member States.

The latest FRAN report as of 2013 stated that 24 805 illegal border-crossing were detected. In the Eastern Mediterranean area specifically at the land border between Greece and Turkey, illegal border-crossings were down by nearly 70% compared to the second quarter of 2012, but up in the Central Mediterranean route.[11]



"Joint Operation Hermes" began on 20 February 2011, after Italy asked for Frontex surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and North Africa, the southern border of the EU being in the Sea.[12] The Libyan no-fly zone came into effect subsequently, and combat operations started on 20 March 2011.

The Netherlands has a Coast Guard Dornier 228 aircraft with air force crew and Portugal, an air force C-295MPA, stationed at Malta and Pantelleria. The number of observed shiploads of people intending to illegally enter into the EU through this sector increased from 1,124 in teh first quarter of 2013 to 5,311 in the second quarter of 2013.[13]

African and other would-be illegal immigrants continue to set sail for Italian shores aboard unseaworthy boats and ships. Several of these attempts have ended with capsized boats and hundreds of people drowning in the sea, though the Italian navy has saved thousands of lives in its Operation Mare Nostrum.[14][relevant? ]


Main article: Operation Triton

"Joint Operation Triton" is under Italian control and focuses on border security within 30 nautical miles of the Italian shore. It began on 1 November 2014 and involves 15 other European nations volunteering services, both EU member states and non-members. As of 2015 voluntary contributors are Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, Poland, Lithuania and Malta.[15] The operation's assets consist of two surveillance aircraft, three ships and seven teams of staff who gather intelligence and conduct screening and process identification. In 2014ts budget was estimated at €2.9 million per month.[16]

After the April 2015 Libya migrant shipwrecks, in which about 800 refugees died, EU ministers proposed on 20 April 2015, to double the size of Operation Triton and to widen its mandate to conduct search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean Sea.[17] Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Frontex, dismissed turning Triton into a search and rescue operation, saying it would "support and fuel the business of traffickers". Instead he recommended to expand air surveillance of the Maltese waters "anticipate more disasters.[18]


"Joint Operation Poseidon" began on 2006, after Greece asked for surveillance by Frontex of the country's sea and land borders between the EU-member Greece and Turkey. The Joint Operation is divided into two branches, the Poseidon Sea Operation which oversees the sea borders of the EU with Turkey in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas,[19] and the Poseidon Land Operation which oversees the southeastern land border of the EU with Turkey on the Maritsa river.[20] The operation turned permanent and has been expanded subsequently on the year 2011.

Turkish airspace violations[edit]

In September 2009, a Turkish military radar issued a warning to a Latvian helicopter patrolling in the eastern Aegean—part of the EU's Frontex programme to combat illegal immigration—to leave the area. The Turkish General Staff reported that the Latvian Frontex aircraft had violated Turkish airspace west of Didim.[21][full citation needed] According to a Hellenic Air Force announcement, the incident occurred as the Frontex helicopter—identified as an Italian-made Agusta A109—was patrolling in Greek air space near the small isle of Farmakonisi, which lies on a favourite route used by migrant smugglers ferrying mostly Third World migrants into Greece and the EU from the opposite Turkish coastline.[22][dead link] Frontex officials stated that they simply ignored the Turkish warnings as they were not in Turkish airspace and continued their duties. Frontex later took photographs of the Turkish Coast Guard escorting illegal immigrants towards Greek waters and the photos accompanied by written evidence were submitted to EU authorities.[23]

Another incident took place on October 2009 in the air space above the eastern Aegean sea, off the island of Lesbos.[24][better source needed] On 20 November 2009, the Turkish General Staff issued a press note alleging that an Estonian Border Guard aircraft Let L-410 UVP taking off from Kos on a Frontex mission had violated Turkish airspace west of Söke.[21]


In an NGO Statement on International Protection[25] presented at the UNHCR Standing Committee in 2008 a broad coalition of non-governmental organisations have expressed their concern, that much of the rescue work by Frontex is in fact incidental to a deterrence campaign so broad and, at times, so undiscriminating, that directly and through third countries – intentionally or not – asylum-seekers are being blocked from claiming protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

According to European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and British Refugee Council in written evidence submitted to the UK House of Lords inquiry, Frontex fails to demonstrate adequate consideration of international and European asylum and human rights law including the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and EU law in respect of access to asylum and the prohibition of refoulement.[26]

In addition ECRE and British Refugee Council have expressed a worry with the lack of clarity regarding Frontex accountability for ensuring compliance with international and EC legal obligations by Member States involved in Frontex coordinated operations. This is compounded by the lack of transparency, and the absence of independent monitoring and democratic accountability of the Agency.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ""Frontex: Contact"". Frontex. Retrieved 2015-02-27. 
  2. ^ a b c "Council Regulation 2004 (EC) No 2007/2004". Council of the European Union. 2004-10-26. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  3. ^ Staff woes hit EU border agency BBC News
  4. ^ "More about Frontex". Frontex. 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  5. ^ "External evaluation of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union". Cowi. January 2009. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  6. ^ EU agrees rapid reaction anti-immigration units
  7. ^ EU border agency starts sea patrols
  8. ^ Pop, Valentina. "/ Justice & Home Affairs / EU to deploy armed patrols at Greek-Turkish border". Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  9. ^ demy f.r. says: (2010-05-03). "Icelandic cruiser on EU border security patrol duty | IceNews - Daily News". Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  10. ^ Omolesky, Matthew (12 August 2010) "Irregular Crossings" American Spectator (Special Report)
  11. ^ "Annual Risk Analysis". Frontex. 2012-05-19. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  12. ^ Frontex begins Operation Hermes in Lampedusa following request from Italy.Boundary news, International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University, NC, USA. accessed Dec 13, 2013
  13. ^ Frontex Quarterly Report FRAN Quarterly Quarter 2, April–June 2013 accessed Dec 13, 2013
  14. ^ Gavin Jones Italy says two boat migrants die, 1,500 saved as total passes 100,000 Reuters UK, 15 August 2015
  15. ^ "Frontex Triton operation to 'support' Italy's Mare Nostrum". ANSA. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  16. ^ "EC MEMO, Brussels, 7 October 2014, Frontex Joint Operation 'Triton' – Concerted efforts to manage migration in the Central Mediterranean". European Union, European Commission. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Migrants' bodies brought ashore as EU proposes doubling rescue effort". Reuters. 20 April 2015. 
  18. ^ Patrick Kingsley, Ian Traynor (22 April 2015). "EU borders chief says saving migrants' lives 'shouldn't be priority' for patrols". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  19. ^
  20. ^,+Expanded+to+Bulgaria-Turkey+Border
  21. ^ a b Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri - Turkish Armed Forces "Airspace violations in the Aegean". 
  22. ^ "Latest Frontex patrol harassed" (in Greek). Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  23. ^ Nick Iliev (2009-09-21). "Turkish coast guard caught escorting smugglers into Greece - report - South Eastern Europe". The Sofia Echo. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  24. ^ "Newest Frontex patrol harassed". Troktiko Blogspot. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  25. ^ "NGO Statement on International Protection: The High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges" (PDF). UNHCR. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-05. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  26. ^ "ECRE/BRC joint response to House of Lords inquiry on Frontex". ECRE. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 

External links[edit]