Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, after one year


One year ago, the European Border and Cost Guard regulation entered into force, bringing to life the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. The agency’s new mandate and increased resources were a clear and strong political response not only to the migration but also the security crisis faced by the EU at its external borders in 2015 and 2016.

The agency’s first anniversary provides an opportunity to review its achievements and consider the way forward.

“The new Frontex is more operational than ever. Right now we have more than 1700 officers from all around Europe deployed in our operations. In case of an emergency at Europe’s external borders, Frontex has at its disposal additional 1500 officers who can be deployed within five days, not weeks or months,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is building on the foundation of Frontex, which for more than a decade helped coordinate operations at Europe’s external borders. The agency has expanded and reorganised to be able to better handle its new responsibilities. Just over the last year, Frontex has grown by a third, to a staff of 488, and it will more than double again, with a goal of having 1000 employees by 2020.

To help Europe better prepare for future challenges at its external borders, Frontex is conducting vulnerability assessments in all member states. In these tests, Frontex analyses border control capacity to determine individual countries’ readiness to face challenges at their external borders. The agency then issues individual recommendations to member states. The vulnerability assessment is an important part of the agency’s mission to help EU manage migration more effectively, improve the internal security of the European Union and safeguard the principle of free movement of persons within the Schengen Area.

The agency has also taken on new tasks to help combat cross-border crime. Frontex closely cooperates with national authorities and Europol and shares the intelligence gathered at the external borders with them. Under the new mandate, officers deployed by Frontex now have access to various EU databases, including the Schengen Information System (SIS), which allows them to perform more effective border checks.

In the coming weeks, together with the member states and the European Commission Frontex will take further steps towards an integrated European Return System. So far this year the agency has assisted in the return of more than 10 000 foreign nationals, nearly double the number from all of 2016. Under its new mandate, in addition to coordinating joint return operations that involve at least two Member States, Frontex has begun to assist individual Member States in national return operations. These now account for nearly half of all Frontex return operations. Frontex has also established a pool of experts who support the return of migrants across the EU.

“Frontex is more involved than ever in different stages of migration management in the EU. Over the last year, Frontex has taken large leaps in the area of returns and has become an essential actor in law enforcement on the European level,” said Fabrice Leggeri.

See "A year in review" report.