UNHCR has had a liaison officer assigned to work with Frontex since 2007. The current UNHCR senior liaison officer is Michele Simone. In a Q&A interview posted on the UNHCR web site Mr Simone expressed some concerns about Frontex operations at sea (in addition to speaking on other topics):
“It remains difficult to evaluate the impact of [UNHCR’s asylum and protection] training [of border officials] while information on operational activities at the borders, especially at sea, remains rather limited.”
“Frontex operations should ensure disembarkation of those intercepted at sea to a place where they are not only safe physically, but where their basic rights – including the rights to seek asylum and receive protection – are respected. This is spelled out in the recently adopted European Union guidelines for maritime border operations. In any event, the operations should anticipate that some of those intercepted at sea will be particularly vulnerable, notably unaccompanied children, women and torture victims. At this time, we believe there are not enough qualified staff at sea or land entry points to identify and support such vulnerable cases. To assist border guards in this identification process, UNHCR is currently discussing with Frontex the elaboration of ad hoc protection guidelines for some selected joint operations.”
Click here for full interview.