Schengen countries are obliged to deploy sufficient staff
and resources to ensure a “high and uniform level of control” at their external
borders. They must ensure that border guards are properly trained. EU and
Schengen Associated Countries also assist each other in the effective
application of border controls via operational cooperation, which is
coordinated by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
The Schengen area now extends along some 44 000 km of
external sea borders and almost 9 000 km of land borders. It comprises 26
countries (including a number of non-EU states, so-called Schengen Associated
Countries), meaning free movement for nearly half a billion people inside the
Schengen area in exchange for strict controls at external borders. Simply put,
the Schengen area’s external border is only as strong as its weakest link.
The Schengen Borders Code governs the crossing of the external border, facilitating access for those who have a
legitimate interest to enter into the EU and tightening security at the EU’s external
frontiers for those, who have no right to enter or stay. It clearly states that
the primary responsibility of border control lies with those Schengen countries
that have an external border –land and sea borders and international airports. They
must ensure that proper checks and effective surveillance are carried out
Frontex’s mission is to promote, coordinate and develop
European Border Management in line with the EU fundamental rights charter and
the concept of EU-integrated border management.
Frontex also provides technical and operational
assistance to Member States through joint operations and rapid border
interventions, as well as technical and operational assistance in the support
of search and rescue operations at sea and organises. In addition, Frontex coordinates
and conducts return operations and assists EU countries in raising and
harmonising border management standards to help combat cross-border crime.
While regular border control is the exclusive responsibility
of the Member States, Frontex’s operational role focuses on coordination of
deployment of additional experts and technical equipment to those border areas
which find themselves under significant pressure. Frontex also builds the
capacity of the Member States in various areas related to border control,
including training and sharing of best practices.
Frontex joint operations are planned and developed on the basis of an Annual
Risk Analysis Reports which analyses the likely future risk of irregular
migration and cross-border crime along the EU external border. During the
annual meetings with Member States the agency prioritises the proposed joint
operations on the basis of their importance and the resources available in
order to ensure an effective response.
Consultation with Member States
Together with the host country Frontex makes an assessment of the number of
officers with specific expertise and the quantity and type of technical
equipment required. Frontex then directs a request to all Member States and
Schengen Associated Countries for the necessary officers, clearly specifying
their required profiles (including document experts, border checks,
surveillance experts, dog handlers) as well as specific equipment needed for
the operation (such as helicopters, planes, patrol cars, thermo-vision
equipment, heart-beat detectors). Those countries then decide on the level of
contribution they can make to the joint operation.
This document clearly defines the aim of each joint operation, where it is to
take place and the quantities and types of technical equipment and officers to
take part. Many operations require the deployment of debriefing officers, who
conduct interviews with migrants with the purpose of gathering information
about people-smuggling networks. In addition, cultural mediators and
interpreters enable migrants to express themselves in their own languages. The
operational plan also clearly states the rules of engagement for officers
taking part in the operation.
At this stage, border guards and technical equipment are deployed to the
operational area to carry out their duties according to the operational plan.
The deployed officers (known as guest officers) work under the command and
control of the authorities of the country hosting the operation.
During deployment, guest officers may perform all tasks and
exercise all powers for border checks or border surveillance in accordance with
Schengen Borders Code. These tasks include border checks, border surveillance,
stamping, interviewing undocumented persons, consultation of databases.
Guest officers wear their national uniforms and a blue
armband (picture) with the insignia of the EU and Frontex. For the purposes of
identification vis-à-vis national authorities and citizens, guest officers
carry an accreditation document, provided by Frontex, which they must present
Code of conduct
All officers deployed to an operation coordinated by the agency are bound by
the Frontex Code of Conduct, which includes specific provisions on the respect
of fundamental rights and the right to international protection. It lays out a
set of behavioural standards that all staff involved in a Frontex joint
operation must follow.
Once completed, each operation is evaluated by Frontex, the participating
countries and other stakeholders involved ensuring that the operational process
is constantly refined.