There is nothing really unexpected in the Frontex General Report for 2009. If anything, it disappoints with its limited information.
The number of illegal border crossings at EU borders was smaller by a third in 2009 compared to 2008 and Frontex’s budget increased by 25% to € 88.3 million.
Frontex continued to devote the biggest single portion of its expenditures to maritime enforcement. Almost 40% of Frontex’s total budget, over € 34 million, was spent on sea operations in 2009. This constitutes 55% of the operational budget. The Report notes that this cost is due to the high operating costs of ships and surveillance aircraft.
Expenditures for Frontex facilitated return operations sharply increased by 500% in 2009 to almost € 5.5 million.
Limited Information in the Report – The Report explains that Frontex made a decision in 2008 to decrease the level of detail provided in the General Report. Frontex’s justification is that the Report “is mainly directed towards the general public” and the reduced level of detail “is more suited to this audience.” This practice was unfortunately continued in the 2009 Report.
General Statistics – Overall there were 106,200 “detections of illegal border-crossings” at EU external land and sea borders in 2009. This represents a 33% decrease in overall detected crossings relative to 2008, with a 23% reduction of detections at sea and a 43% reduction at land borders.
The reductions are attributed by Frontex to the economic crisis and to bilateral “collaboration agreements with third countries of departure” such as Libya, Senegal, and Mauritania.
Applications for international protection within the EU were 2% fewer in number than in 2008 and were approximately 50% of the 2001-2002 peak when 420,000 applications for international protection were filed.
Cooperation with Non-EU / Non-Schengen Countries – The Report states that cooperation with third countries, including neighbouring countries and countries of origin, is the critical element in “integrated border management.” It describes Operation HERA as Frontex’s most successful joint operation due to close cooperation with West African countries, particularly Senegal and Mauritania. On other fronts, “considerable progress” was made with Turkey consisting of Turkey’s appointment of a “first point of contact for Frontex related coordination issues” and preparation of a draft text of a possible Working Arrangement agreement. “Ad hoc operational co-operation” was pursued when a targeted country was not willing or able to enter into a formal Working Arrangement with Frontex. An “overriding priority” for Frontex in 2010 is the development of “structured operational co-operation with neighbouring Mediterranean countries.” The Report acknowledges the existence of the bilateral migration agreement between Italy and Libya, but says nothing about its provisions other than to say that there were “contrasting interpretations of the International Law of the Sea” between Member States. There is no criticism in the Report whatsoever of the Italian push-back practice. It is obviously difficult for Frontex to criticise Italy, but was it not possible to note that most people and organizations who have considered the push-back practice have concluded that the practice violates international law?
New Partner Organisations – Frontex formalised a co-operation plan with Europol in October, a Working Arrangement with Interpol in May, a co-operation plan with IOM in February, and made a tripartite agreement with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) relating to maritime surveillance.
More to follow: I will post a second summary with additional information from the General Report pertaining to the specific sea operations for which information is provided within the next day or two.
Click here for the Report.