European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)

Role: Frontex helps EU countries and Schengen associated countries manage their external borders. It also to helps to harmonise border controls across the EU. The agency facilitates cooperation between border authorities in each EU country, providing technical support and expertise.

What it does

Europe’s external borders have seen an unprecedented rise in the number of migrants and refugees wishing to enter the EU in recent years. Countries that have an external border have sole responsibility for border control. But Frontex can provide additional technical support for EU countries facing severe migratory pressure.

It does this by coordinating the deployment of additional technical equipment (e.g. aircraft and boats) and specially-trained border staff.

Frontex coordinates maritime operations (e.g. in Greece, Italy and Spain) but also at external land borders, including in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Slovakia. It is also present at many international airports across Europe.

Frontex has several areas of responsibility, laid down in the legal basis.

These include:

  • Risk analysis – all Frontex activities are risk-analysis driven. Frontex assesses risks to EU border security. It builds up a picture of patterns and trends in irregular migration and cross-border criminal activity at the external borders, including human trafficking. It shares its findings with EU countries and the Commission and used by the agency for planning its activities.
  • Joint operations – coordinates the deployment of specially trained staff and technical equipment (aircraft, vessels, and border control/surveillance equipment) to external border areas in need of additional assistance.
  • Rapid response – if an EU country is facing extreme pressure at an external border, especially the arrival of large numbers of non-EU nationals, Frontex coordinates the deployment of European Border Guard Teams.
  • Research – brings border control experts together with research and industry to make sure new technology meet the needs of border control authorities.
  • Training – develops common training standards for border authorities, to harmonise border guard education in EU and Schengen associated countries. This harmonisation is intended to ensure that wherever travellers cross an external EU border, they will encounter uniform border-control standards. It also enables border guards from different countries to work together efficiently while deployed to joint operations coordinated by Frontex.
  • Joint returns – develops best practices for returning migrants and coordinates joint return operations (but individual countries decide who should be returned).
  • Information-sharing – develops and operates information systems that enable swift exchange of information between border authorities.