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EU Border Agency Introduces New Surveillance System

Frontex, the EU’s border agency, has announced its ‘Entry-Exit System’ (EES). The new system, which “will fundamentally change the way border guards work,” entails a comprehensive registration of non-EU nationals whenever they enter or exit the bloc’s borders. 

The agency, which is tasked with controlling the external borders of the European Schengen Area, stated in a press release on Friday that “every year, millions of travellers from non-EU countries cross the external borders of the Schengen Area,” and that the new system will “increase internal security and contribute to the modernisation of external border management.”

To do this, it will “centralize and store information on external borders crossings, including the non-EU traveller’s name, travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial image) and the date, time and place of entry or exit, in full respect of fundamental rights and data protection.”  

According to Frontex, the main benefits EES offers are: 

  • Automated border checks, thereby saving “bona fide” travellers time;
  • Detection of persons who remain in the Schengen Area without permission; and 
  • Support in the identification of criminals, including terrorists and other individuals who are committing identity and document fraud.

Before the system can be rolled out, Member States have to “adapt their border management processes, staffing and infrastructure at border crossing points.” Preparing their systems to collect the information required by the EES is the individual responsibility of each, Frontex states. eu-LISA, which is responsible for the development and operation of the central ICT components needed, and Frontex will however provide assistance to member states so they can meet these requirements.

Apart from providing training and advice to border control authorities, Frontex will set up pilot projects at border crossing points. Last year, successful trials took place in Bulgaria and Spain. In addition, Frontex will furnish a toolkit for all European border guard officers to guide them through implementing the new system.

The news comes only one week after Senegal’s Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye had given the “green light for technical discussions” on the topic of Frontex operations within Africa, starting in his country. A draft for such a deployment in third countries—a first for the agency—had been proposed by the European Commission last December. Its purpose would be to combat illegal immigration and cross-border crime, as well as turning back unwanted migrants and rejected asylum seekers. 

Following a surge in perilous crossings to Spain’s Canary Islands, European Commissioner Ylva Johansson offered to deploy Frontex to Senegal to help combat migrant smuggling. At a news conference in the Senegalese capital Dakar on February 11th, she said that in coordination with local forces, the agents would “work together to fight the smugglers.”Some eyed the scheme with skepticism. Edwin Ikhuoria, Executive Director at the ONE Campaign, an advocacy group, said that it does not “tackle the underlying, root causes of the problem—why are people leaving? It mistakenly focuses on the short-term, addressing the effects of the problem instead of the causes.”

Such a multi-pronged approach is what the EU seems to envision. The border agency’s expanding role coincided with the EU’s announcement that it would devote €150 billion to the African continent’s development. Of that number, €4.35 billion would cover migration exclusively.

Tristan Vanheuckelom writes on film, literature, and comics for various Dutch publications. He is an avid student of history, political theory, and religion, and is a News Writer at The European Conservative.

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