Situation at External Border

A hotspot is a section of the EU external border or a region with extraordinary migratory pressure and mixed flows that require reinforced and concerted EU-Agencies support to the affected MS, implemented via the EU Regional Task Force (EURTF). The hotspot approach was tabled by the Commission as part of the European Agenda for Migration and was further developed during the JHA Council meetings. It is principally aimed at improving the coordination of European assistance in areas of significant migratory pressure.
Europe has witnessed unprecedented numbers of migrants and refugees at its external borders. The numbers are so high that it is clear the national authorities need urgent additional support in terms of registration, identification and asylum processing. To face these challenges, five EU agencies were mandated by the European Commission to develop a coordinated support package. The main objectives of the package include, among others a) identification and registration of 100% of the migrants arriving at EU external borders, b) investigation and dismantling of criminal people-smuggling networks. Frontex deploys Joint Screening Teams to assist the EU member states in registration and identification, including the identification of the persons in need of international protection. Frontex Joint Debriefing Teams carry out interviews to collect information on the smuggling networks and the routes for the purpose of risk analysis and to feed criminal investigations. Frontex also deploys fingerprinting officers and translators to Greece and Italy. The agency also supports the member states in organisation of return measures for refused asylum seekers or other persons who do not have the right to remain in the EU (see next section for more details). European Asylum Support Office (EASO) provides information on asylum procedures and the benefits of relocation. Its support teams help the MSs to process asylum cases based on respective agreements. EASO also matches asylum applicants with the most appropriate Member State for relocation. Europol serves as the EU intelligence hub for cases of migrant smuggling. It supports the national authorities in dismantling the criminal networks responsible for people smuggling. Europol also provides forensic support at disembarkation points and for investigative units through, for example, the examination of electronic devices and scanning of documentation. Eurojust supports the cooperation between the Member States’ judicial authorities to dismantle and prosecute the smuggling and trafficking networks. Eurojust facilitates the use of judicial cooperation, European Arrest Warrants, joint investigation teams and coordination centres to ensure an EU judicial response. euLISA provides ICT expertise based on its operational management of the Eurodac system for registration of biometric data from asylum seekers and those irregularly crossing the external borders of the EU. It also assists national authorities to accelerate the registration process through optimal use of technologies. Within the remits of current data protection legislation, eu-LISA experts also assess the potential applicability of innovative technologies and their potential for deployment.
Frontex’s role in the hotspots relates to: Assistance in identification including nationality screening, Referral of people in need of international protection, Assistance in registration including fingerprinting, which precedes the asylum applications and Organisation of return measures for refused asylum seekers or other persons who do not have the right to remain in the EU. It is crucial to note that the return decision can only be issued by the competent authorities of the EU Member States after having analysed each case individually and after granting the person the possibility to appeal their decision. It is equally important to stress that Frontex has no mandate in this area and cannot enter into the merit of such decisions. The role of Frontex is limited to the organisation of the logistics of the effective return and help in the acquisition of travel documents. It should be noted that all these components of the migration process are an integral part of the practical implementation of the Hotspot approach, which is a prerequisite of the relocation process of asylum seekers.
The Italian authorities have to date set up five hotspots – on Lampedusa, in Trapani, Pozzallo, Taranto and Messina. The Greek authorities have set up five hotspots, on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros.
Frontex, together with three other European agencies: Europol, EASO and Eurojust have jointly developed the concept of European Regional Task Force – a shared office where the representatives of these agencies work together to coordinate the EU assistance to the national authorities in identification, registration, asylum support, return as well as criminal investigations of people-smuggling networks which takes place either in the ports or in specific reception centres. Having a coordinating office near to where the migratory pressure is highest means not only being able to better coordinate the exchange of information between the agencies, but also working directly with the local authorities on the ground. The first EURTF was set up in June 2015, in Catania, Sicily, where Frontex, EASO, Europol, the military support mission called EUNAVFORMED and the representatives of Italian authorities have deployed liaison officers. Each agency clearly works within its own mandate and fulfils specific tasks. A similar office was set up in the premises of the existing Frontex liaison office in Piraeus.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is present at the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to assist the Greek authorities with border surveillance and document checks. The deployment is part of the Frontex operation Flexible Operational Activities 2017 Land on Border Surveillance and Focal Points 2017 Land.

Frontex collects and processes data from Member States on the number of detections of illegal border crossings at the external borders of the Member States of the European Union. A person may attempt to cross the border irregularly several times either at the same or in different locations at the external border of the EU. This is of particular significance in the current crisis where large numbers of migrants are entering the EU in the Greek islands and then move through the Western Balkans and re-enter the EU in Hungary of Croatia on the way to their desired final destinations in the EU. This means that a large number of migrants who arrived in Greece and were detected by the Greek authorities, are probably detected (and reported) again once they arrive at the borders of Hungary or Croatia. The data on illegal border crossing primarily indicates 1) the migratory pressure at the EU external borders and 2) the workload of EU border control authorities, as they always need to process those detected for illegal border crossing according to the rules set by the Schengen Borders Code.

For the most recent number of irregular border crossings into the EU, visit our migratory routes map page, where you can also download the excel sheet with the latest available dat. 


Visit the Migratory Routes Map on our website for the latest figures on the main routes used by migrants to enter the European Union.

We regularly publish reports on the situation at the EU’s external borders. Please see our risk analysis publications for details here.


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