The European Commission proposed Monday to establish a European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) with the aim of increasing coordination within and between Member States to prevent and tackle serious crime, such as drug trafficking and the trafficking of human beings, and to diminish the unacceptable death toll of migrants at sea.
Under the EUROSUR mechanism, Member States’ authorities responsible for border surveillance (border guards, coast guards, police, customs and navies) will be able to exchange operational information and cooperate with each other, with Frontex and with neighbouring countries. The increased exchange of information and the use of modern surveillance technology introduced by EUROSUR can also be vital for saving the lives of migrants attempting to reach the shores of EU Member States in small and unseaworthy boats that are very difficult to track.
“EUROSUR will help detect and fight criminal networks’ activities and will be a crucial tool for saving migrants who put their lives at risk trying to reach EU shores,” said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs ”The new system will contribute to an integrated border management system whilst ensuring that fundamental rights, data protection and the principle of non-refoulement are respected.”
The exchange of information in the framework of EUROSUR will take the form of ‘situational pictures’, which can be described as graphical interfaces presenting data, information and intelligence. These situational pictures will be established at national and European level and will be structured in a similar way to facilitate the flow of information among them. In order to improve the capability of detecting small vessels, Frontex will also set up a service for the common application of surveillance tools, combining, among other things, satellite imagery with information derived from ship reporting systems.
This will increase the possibility of identifying and tracking down the routes used by criminal networks. The fact that traffickers are currently using small wooden and glass-fibre boats for smuggling both human beings and illicit drugs poses a major challenge to law enforcement authorities because it is extremely difficult to detect, identify and track such small boats on the high seas.
Currently in some Member States, up to six different authorities are directly involved in the surveillance of maritime borders, sometimes operating parallel surveillance systems, without clear rules and workflows for cooperation and information exchange among them. Furthermore, in the field of border surveillance there is not only a lack of coordination inside some Member States, but also between Member States, due to the absence of proper procedures, networks or communication channels for the exchange of information.
EUROSUR will bolster information exchange and cooperation between Member States’ border control authorities as well as with Frontex. For this purpose, each Member State with land and maritime external borders will have to establish a national coordination centre for border surveillance, which will exchange information with other national coordination centres and Frontex via a protected communication network.
In 2008, the Commission adopted a Communication examining the creation of a European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) and set out a roadmap for the development, testing and implementation of the system (MEMO/08/86).
Accordingly, Member States are currently setting up national coordination centres for border surveillance, which will be the single point of contact for real-time data, information and intelligence exchange between border guards, coast guards, police and other national authorities as well as with Frontex and other national coordination centres.
In November 2011, Frontex interlinked on a pilot basis with the first six national coordination centres1 via a protected communication network. The remaining national coordination centres of Member States will be connected in 2012 and 2013.
Together with Member States and other EU agencies, Frontex is currently developing the other components of EUROSUR, which focus in particular on the detection of small vessels used for smuggling human beings as well as drug trafficking.