Frontex is the European border agency, founded in 2004 and operational since 2005. The agency has their seat in Warsaw, Poland, from where it directs its activities. Although it is often believed, Frontex is not an actual border police, with a staff in uniform and with the task to actually police the borders of the EU. Rather, Frontex is a coordinating mechanism of the European Union organizing the cooperation of the border police bodies of the member states of the EU. In this respect, Frontex is like a meta border police: it is both above and behind the everyday practices of border guards.
To this end, Frontex combines a lot of tasks and activities in one body that in the traditional nation state have been kept separate. There is a intelligence service component: Frontex is actively monitoring and pooling data about all that is going on at the external borders of the EU, so that predictions to movements of migration can be made. Frontex refers to this as risk analysis, a whole department at the headquarters in Warsaw is busy with this and well connected to its national counterparts in Europe. There is also a research division, which – in cooperation with military industries and universities – is pushing for the high-tech-sci-fi border of the 21st century. Current plans include real-time surveillance of the border on all levels, including live satellite imagery, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV aka drones, usually deployed in war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq) for close-ups, and all other tools at the disposition of a border guard: radar, cameras, etc. Another project is the introduction of biometric identity checks at all border crossings.
Recently, Frontex has also been more involved in the organization and financing of mass deportations, where a whole plane would be chartered and refugees from all over Europe would be put in the plane to then be deported to their assumed country of origin. In 2009, Frontex did more than 30 such flights, removing more than 1.500 people from European territory.
The main focus of Frontex, however, is the coordination of cooperation at the actual border, as they refer to it. Since the agency became operational, Frontex has organized so called “joint operations”, where a EU member state would invite other EU member states to send border guard personal and equipment for a joint policing of the borders.
Frontex in the Aegean: In this article, we discuss how Frontex is involved in three different strategical areas of border management in the Aegean and how this reshapes the Euro-Greek border regime.
Frontex in the Mediterranean: This article of 2009 describes Frontex’ history of involvement in the Mediterranean and what role the agency played in closing the routes from Africa to Spain and Italy/Malta.
Reporting in this blog: Follow our updates on this blog in the category Frontex.
German language brochures: Background information on Frontex has been published by the NGO “Informationsstelle Militarisierung” in German. A first brochure from 2008 explains the origins and constitution of The European Border Agency Frontex, while a seconded brochure recently published examines aspects of the activities of Frontex and highlights criticism and resistance the agency has encountered so far. Both brochures can be downloaded as a pdf.