Frontex is an agency of the European Union (EU) which monitors the borders of the Schengen area. Its headquarters are located in Warsaw, Poland.

The European Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex, is responsible for supporting security at the borders of the Schengen zone, which includes 26 countries of the European Union, and Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

The Schengen area spans 44,000 kilometers of external sea borders and almost 9,000 kilometers of land border. The Schengen Borders Code includes a series of measures to tighten security at the area's frontiers, while relaxing checks at borders within Schengen states. The primary responsibility of security within the Schengen lies with countries on the external areas of the border, including land, sea and airports.

Tackling illegal immigration

Frontex ensures that experts and technical expertise is deployed in these border areas, which experience significant pressure. Its missions include monitoring migratory flows, risk assessment, monitoring and managing external borders, coordinating and organizing joint operations and initiating interventions to help EU member states' coast guards tackle illegal immigration and facilitate those trying to get into the area legally. It is also responsible for fighting cross-border crime and terrorism.

Frontex often cooperates with third countries like Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, and international organizations like the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). It does not have any policing authority, but coordinates the deployment of the border police of EU member states, for example, the European Patrols Network. It also engages in the training of border guards and supports efforts to save refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean.

Frontex consists of three main departments: Operations, Capacities and Administration. The Operations department coordinates joint efforts of border police, Capacities overlooks research and training, while Administration is responsible for IT, finances and personnel. More than 360 people work in the organization and its annual budget is €281 million for 2017.

Surveillance, search and rescue

Currently, Frontex is involved in Operation Poseidon - a joint operation that provides Greece with technical assistance in border surveillance. Its operational area covers the Greek sea borders with Turkey and the Greek islands. Frontex supports Italy in Operation Triton, which controls borders and engages in surveillance and search and rescue in the Central Mediterranean. Its vessels have also been redirected by the Italian Coast Guard to rescue migrant ships in distress.

A third operation called the EU Naval Force Mediterranean Operation Sophia was launched on June 22, 2015, to disrupt criminal networks that try and smuggle migrants from Africa and conflict-ridden parts of Asia into Europe.

Sources: http://frontex.europa.eu/, Federal Agency for Civic Education, ec.europa.eu


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