European Border and Coast Guard report
- 72% of returns inside Europe: 101 return flights to the West Balkans and only 41 outside the EU
- Deploying "assets" to frontline Member States: thermo-vision vehicles, dog teams, CO2 detectors and smartdeck cameras
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The Commission Press release of 14 June (pdf) concerning the Fourth report on the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) stated on the question of "returns" that:
"The pace of return operations organised by the European Border and Coast Guard has continued to grow, with 6,799 irregularly staying migrants returned in 2017 so far, representing an increase of over 157% compared to the same period of last year." [emphasis added]
However, the Fourth Report on EBCG (COM 325-17, pdf) says that:
"Between 1 January and 9 June 2017, the Agency provided support to 144 return operations of third-country nationals during which 6,799 illegally staying third-country nationals were returned, with further 43 operations under preparation. This represents an increase of over 157% compared to the same period of last year. The majority of these operations (101 out of 144) concerned flights to the Western Balkans."
Thus 101 return flights concerned returns inside Europe to the West Balkans and only 41 outside the EU. There were an average of 42 people per flight.
"Moreover, only a few Member States request the Agency's assistance in organising return operations" [emphasis in original]. Footnote 3 says:
"In 2017, most return operations were initiated by Germany (20), and Austria (12), followed by Belgium, Sweden and Greece (each 4)."
Deployment of personnel and "assets" to frontline Member States
With over 1,600 borders guards the following deployment is set out:
The Agency implements three different operations in Greece. Joint Operation Poseidon in the Aegean Sea supports Greece in border control and the implementation of the hotspot approach on the Aegean islands and of the EU-Turkey Statement.
891 officers are deployed by the Agency in the context of Joint Operation Poseidon including the support for readmission activities and 280 security officers, co-financed by the Agency, that are deployed by the Greek Police. The figure includes experts assisting in the implementation of the hotspot approach as well as crew members of the deployed assets and coordination staff. The deployment also includes 2 offshore patrol vessels, 3 coastal patrol vessels, 10 coastal patrol boats, 1 fixed-wing aircraft, 2 helicopters, 16 patrol cars, 4 buses and 3 thermo-vision vehicles.
The Agency also supports Greece through Joint Operations Flexible Operational Activities and Focal Points in border control activities, with the current deployment of altogether 53 officers supported by 2 thermo-vision vans, 14 patrol cars, 1 dog team and 3 smartdeck cameras at the Greek land borders with Turkey, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as well as relevant air operations. The operational activity in Northern Greece enhances border surveillance and prevents irregular secondary movements, thus further reinforcing the EU's response to the challenges at the Western Balkan route.
The current deployment at the Greek land border with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia consists of 28 officers (with 2 smartdeck cameras and 1 patrol car) whereas the agreed operational plan foresees 63 officers, meaning a continued shortfall of around 35 officers.
Under the umbrella of Joint Operation Triton deployed in Italy and in the Central Mediterranean Sea, the Agency has deployed 402 officers, including crew members of the deployed assets, coordination staff and experts assisting in the implementation of the hotspot approach. The deployment is supported by 3 aircrafts, 3 helicopters, 4 offshore patrol vessels, 7 coastal patrol vessels and 3 coastal patrol boats.
The Agency continues to assist Bulgaria in controlling the land borders, also in view of preventing irregular secondary movements. The support is provided through Joint Operations Flexible Operational Activities and Focal Points at Bulgaria's land borders with Turkey and Serbia as well as relevant air operations. The current deployment comprises 166 officers (including crew members of the deployed assets) supported by 12 dog teams, 6 thermo-vision vehicles, 50 patrol cars, 6 CO2 detectors, 39 smartdeck cameras and 1 helicopter.
Joint Operation Indalo 2017 was launched on 3 May 2017 to support coordinated operational activities at the external sea borders of the Western Mediterranean region in order to control irregular migration flows towards the EU and to tackle cross border crime. The current deployment is 65 officers (including crew members of the deployed assets, coordination staff and debriefing teams), supported by 1 aircraft and 1 offshore patrol vessel.
127 officers are currently deployed in Member States to assist in border management in the Western Balkan region. The most important deployments are carried out in the framework of Joint Operations Flexible Activities at the land borders of Croatia and Hungary with Serbia as well as Focal Points and Coordination Points at the land borders respectively. They are supported by 9 dog teams, 4 thermo-vision vehicles, 31 patrol cars, 1 heartbeat detector, 10 CO2. detectors and 12 smartdeck cameras." [all emphasis added]
Frontex is recruiting three "return pools":
and return specialists
available for operational support, but still need to be fully operationalised."
Frontex is asking for 690 "forced-return experts" but only 549 have been offered:
"The return pools have been put to use in practice: by 26 May 2017, 34 return operations have been monitored by a forced-return monitor from the pool." [emphasis added]
Complaints to Frontex
In the six weeks reporting period nine complaints had been lodged with the Fundamental Rights Officer (ERO). Two have been declared admissible and four are being assessed. The FRO is soon to get two assistants.
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