Situational awareness and monitoring

In addition to creating a wider picture of the main trends in irregular migration and other phenomena in the medium and long term, Frontex also pays close attention to the daily developments in the areas of its joint operations at the external borders. Operational personnel made available by the Member States report back continuously via coordination centres on changes in the methods used of the people smugglers and other factors affecting joint operations. Smuggling networks pay close attention to operational activities at the border and adjust their tactics. For this reason, information such as the main nationalities of migrants, the routes they have taken and other details about the smuggling networks involved are all collected and analysed in order to maximise the effectiveness of operations.

This process already begins before a joint operation is launched. A specific assessment is drafted for the preparation of the planning of all operations describing the main trends, routes and methods used by smugglers for the key regions mostly targeted by smuggling networks. This assessment points to where joint operations should be launched, for which period and what should be their focus. When a specific operation in set to be launched, the operational analysts focus on a higher level of details on the most likely routes used by people smugglers, their likely methods and other specific phenomena at local level. These details are then incorporated into a tactical focused assessment (TFA), which in turn is used to finalise the operational plan to determine exactly what types of technical equipment are most appropriate for a given operation. For example, it would show whether to use fast boats or larger vessels or whether helicopters or airplanes would be best suited to a given environment. The precise location and length of joint operations are also determined largely by the TFA.

All this intelligence is then fed back to operational personnel via international, national and local coordination centres to constantly refine the daily operational procedures to maximise effectiveness.

The Eurosur Regulation requires Frontex to assess the impact of migration and cross border crime on all sea and land sections at the external border of the Member States of the European Union. This task is carried out by operational analysts who regularly look at the factors that influence the level of threat, vulnerability and impact on each of the sections.

Operational analysis yields a great number of periodic reports that provide a fresh and detailed picture not only for operational personnel but also for Frontex management, the European Commission and national and international law enforcement bodies. All the data gathered through operational analysis are also used in the strategic analysis process to keep the situational picture as up-to-date as possible.

Processing of personal data

Within certain strict limitations (Regulation (EC) No 45/2001) and supervised by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Frontex processes personal data collected during its Joint Operations. However the Agency only processes personal data that relate to persons suspected by a Member State of being involved in cross-border crimes, such as facilitation of illegal migration or trafficking in human beings.

Currently, the Agency only processes personal data for two specific purposes: firstly, personal data may be used for risk analysis purposes, and secondly Frontex may transmit personal data to Europol or other EU law-enforcement organisations. The Agency is not authorised to conduct investigations or send personal data to third parties and has to delete personal data after three months.

The Regulation on the European Coast and Border Guard (Regulation (EU) 2016/1624), which entered into force on 6 October 2016, expands the sources from which personal data can be gathered and the type of information that can be processed and allows Frontex to use its own staff to collect personal data. It extends the purpose of processing when transmission to EASO, Europol or Eurojust is necessary for a purpose in accordance with the respective mandate and where transmission to the authorities of the relevant Member States which are responsible for border control, migration, asylum or law enforcement is necessary for use in accordance with national legislation and national and Union data protection rules. Frontex is already working on the implementation of the new provisions.

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