01 March 2016
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A December 2015 report by Frontex on the functioning of the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur) provides an overview of how the system functioned from 2011, when the system launched, until November 2015. Thousands of "events" have been recorded in the system over this period and the report highlights four "operational success stories", incuding two incidents in which the system contributed to saving lives at sea.
The report: Frontex, Report to the European Parliament and the Council on Art 22(2) of Regulation (EU) No 1052/2013 - The functioning of Eurosur, 1 December 2015 (pdf)
Over 115,000 "events" were recorded in the Eurosur system from 2011 until November 2015, as the report notes:
"From its launch in 2011 and until 4 November 2015, the Eurosur network application has recorded a total of 117 721 events, while 9 125 documents were stored in its repository. Also within this timeframe, a total of 68 105 incidents were inserted into the JORA (Joint Operations Reporting Application) system, from a total of 37 Joint Operations. The incidents reported into JORA are being fed by Frontex into the Eurosur network application." (p.10)
A section on "results on the ground" highlights four "operational success stories" in which Eurosur played a part:
- the rescue of 38 people travelling in an unseaworthy vessel between Morocco and Spain;
- the seizure from a cargo ship of some 60 million cigarettes without legal possession documents;
- the seizure of around 5,000 weapons and 500,000 bullets headed for Libya; and
- the detection of rubber boats leaving Libya, leading to the notification of "the EUNAVFOR MED flagship present in the area".
Preparations are currently underway for the exchange of information at a higher level of classification than currently permitted:
"The effort to prepare the Eurosur Communication Network to process EU classified Information up to RESTREINT UE/EU RESTRICTED has been ongoing since December 2013. Exchange of RESTRICTED information is expected to start in the second half of 2016, following a provisional authorisation for the ECN to Operate. The full accreditation of the Network is expected in December 2016." (p.12)
The current limitations are apparently restricting activities: "As the Eurosur Communication Network is not accredited yet for exchange of EU classified Information up to RESTREINT UE/EU RESTRICTED, it is not possible yet to test all Eurosur Operational Layers' functionalities" (p.12). Testing is also continuing on more advanced technology such as "close to real time picture secure transmission from the deployed aerial, maritime and terresetrial assets" and "the start of satellite data transmission solution after the installation of equipment on the Islandic [sic] Off-Shore Patrol Vessel 'TYR'" (p.13).
The report also hints at the fact that Greece was the testing ground for the system: in either 2014 or 2015 the server for the "Frontex Compatible Operational Image", which transmits information gathered in Joint Operations to Frontex and national authorities, was moved from Hellenic Coast Guard premises to Frontex's headquarters in Poland.
The numbers provided in the report make clear that Frontex officials and national officials deployed in Frontex-led operations are more enthusisatic users of the system's functions than national authorities. For example: "1073 Analytical Reports have been shared with all the NCCs since the establishment of EUROSUR." However, Member States "have so far shared 12 analytical reports" (p.13).
Similar disparities can be seen in the reporting of information to Eurosur, with Frontex by far the biggest contributor:
"[T]he 'intensity' of Member States/Schengen Associated Countries reporting to Eurosur varies considerably, and the most active node in the Eurosur network application is the Frontex one with a total of 64 355 events uploaded in the application. In terms of events most reported in the Eurosur network application, these are firstly related to 'irregular migration' (over 90 000), followed by 'related cross-border crime' (over 20 000). Only a minority of events are related to the 'crisis' category (just over 100)." (p.18)
Some of this seems to be due to there being no legal requirement for Member States to submit information:
"[D]ue to the limited scope of the Eurosur Regulation for land and sea borders (art. 2), Member States and Schengen Associated Countries have no obligation to report incidents at border control points and on air borders into this application, a legal provision that keeps the situational picture incomplete." (p.18)
More extensive statistical tables are contained in the report. Alongisde the lack of a legal requirement for Member States to submit information to Eurosur, other activities have been hampered by the fact that "data introduced to Eurosur is lacking consistency in its structure and format and does not provide a solid basis for the assessment." This has meant that the task of attributing "impact level assessments" to different "border sections" across the EU involves:
"an all-source approach, using all types of data available at Frontex, such as JORA [Joint Operations Reporting Application], FRAN [Frontex Risk Analysis Network], regional analytical networks and the findings and, in addition the analytical output of other Frontex analysts." (p.16)
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