Longest FRONTEX coordinated operation – HERA, the Canary Islands


Altogether 7 Member States/Schengen Associated Countries participated in the so far longest operation coordinated by Frontex with a total budget of 3.5 million EUR, 2.8 million EUR of which were co-financed by Frontex, divided into two modules – HERA I and HERA II.

The first module of the operation, HERA I, started on 17 July with the deployment of three subsequent groups of experts from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom in the Canary Islands. These experts were involved in identification of migrants that had arrived to the Canary Islands and establishment of their countries of origin. During the course of this operation the total of 18 987 of illegal immigrants landed in the Canary Islands (as of 10 December). In 100% cases the country of origin of these migrants could be established. This fact contributed to the number of returns of illegal migrants carried out by Spanish authorities with the total of 6076 returnees between June and October. Besides, information collected during interviews enabled to detain several facilitators mainly in Senegal.

The second module, HERA II, was commenced on 11 August. Originally planned for 9 weeks, the operation was later prolonged. Following a request for participation sent by Frontex, three Member States offered their assets for the joint sea operation, being Italy (1 vessel, 1 aircraft), Portugal (1 vessel) and Finland (1 aircraft). Vessels and planes from these countries, together with Spanish technical means, patrolled the coastal areas of Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde and the Canary Islands. Based on their bilateral agreements with Spain, Senegal and Mauritania were also involved with their assets and staff. The main aim of this joint effort was to detect vessels setting off towards the Canary Islands and to divert them back to their point of departure thus reducing the number of lives lost at sea. During the course of the operation more than 3 500 migrants were stopped from this dangerous endeavour close to African coast.

During the course of HERA II, which finished on 15 December, the flow of irregular migration has decreased drastically. One of the important factors enabling continuous enhanced patrolling during as well as after the operation was the strong involvement of Senegal and Mauritania with which Frontex seeks to enter into permanent partnership. At present the area continues to be patrolled by Spanish means with the active participation of Senegalese and Mauritanian authorities.

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