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EUROSUR: new tools to save migrants' lives at sea and fight cross-border crime

Commission Européenne - MEMO/13/578   19/06/2013

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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 19 June 2013

EUROSUR: new tools to save migrants' lives at sea and fight cross-border crime

What is the aim of EUROSUR?

The European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) aims at increasing coordination within and between Member States to reinforce border surveillance, prevent and tackle serious crime, such as drug trafficking and the trafficking of human beings. EUROSUR also aims to make a serious contribution to the protection and saving of lives of migrants trying to reach European shores by sea and thus will help to diminish the unacceptable death toll.

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 to fight serious crime and to intervene to save lives at sea. The use of the EUROSUR tools is strictly conditioned to the respect of fundamental rights and in particular the principle of non refoulement.

The increased exchange of information and the use of modern surveillance technology introduced by EUROSUR can 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.

How will Eurosur concretely work?

Eurosur is a cooperation mechanism and its role is to make sure that available information is collected and shared between relevant actors. 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.

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.

Once the 'situational pictures' are made available to the relevant actors it is for Member States to decide upon follow up measures, including interception of boats suspected to carry out criminal activities or rescue at sea in case of emergencies. When using EUROSUR all Member states will be bound by clear rules that guarantee full respect of fundamental rights, including the principle of non-refoulement. This also applies in case of cooperation between Member States and third countries in the framework of EUROSUR.

How are fundamental rights (and in particular the principle of non-refoulement) guaranteed by the Eurosur Regulation?

The EUROSUR Regulation provides several safeguards concerning fundamental rights and the principle of non-refoulment to be applied by Member States in the framework of EUROSUR:

  • The draft Regulation reiterates that Member States and Frontex shall comply with fundamental rights, including the principles of non-refoulement and human dignity and data protection requirements, when applying the EUROSUR Regulation. Priority shall be given to the special needs of children, unaccompanied minors, victims of trafficking, persons in need of urgent medical assistance, persons in need of international protection, persons in distress at sea and other persons in a particularly vulnerable situation.

  • With regard to the cooperation with neighbouring third countries, the EUROSUR Regulation stipulates that:

Any cooperation of Member States with neighbouring third countries must be based on agreements.

Before concluding such agreements, Member States must notify them to the Commission, which verifies their compliance with the provisions of the EUROSUR Regulation, in particular concerning fundamental rights and the non-refoulement principle.

Finally, the draft EUROSUR Regulation requires that Frontex and the Member States establish procedures to monitor the functioning of EUROSUR also with regard to the respect for fundamental rights, including the principle of non-refoulement. The Commission shall provide an overall evaluation of EUROSUR on a regular basis, starting as of 2016. This evaluation shall inter alia include an assessment of the compliance with fundamental rights.

Does EUROSUR allow for the exchange of personal data with third countries?

The possibility for exchanging personal data in EUROSUR is very limited: At European level, Member States and Frontex are entitled only to exchange ship identification numbers. Any exchange of personal data between Member States and third countries is strictly limited to what is absolutely necessary (for examples to identify a boat in distress) and must be carried out in line with EU and national data protection rules.

What data will be exchanged?

The exchange of information in the framework of EUROSUR will be limited to operational information, such as the location of incidents and patrols, and analysed information, for instance intelligence reports. As a general rule this information exchange will not include personal data. If personal data would be exchanged in exceptional cases, the conditions set by the EU legal framework on data protection would fully apply.

Why is the Commission proposing to establish EUROSUR?

EUROSUR will address the challenges of cross border crime, the loss of lives of migrants at sea and irregular migration by focusing on the following issues:

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.

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 to exchange information.

What are the objectives of EUROSUR?

By establishing a common framework for information exchange and interagency cooperation between Member States' border control authorities and Frontex, EUROSUR will:

  • Contribute to the management of migration flows by reducing the number of irregular migrants entering the Schengen area undetected;

  • Protect and save lives at the external borders by considerably diminishing the unacceptable death toll of migrants at sea;

  • Increase the internal security of the European Union by preventing serious crime at the external borders of the Schengen area.

What is the content of the proposed Regulation?

EUROSUR will establish a common framework for information exchange and cooperation between Member States and Frontex. For this purpose, each Member State with land and maritime external borders will establish a national coordination centre for border surveillance, which will exchange information with other national coordination centres and Frontex via a protected communication network.

According to the legislative proposal for EUROSUR, national coordination centres and Frontex will exchange information via 'situational pictures', which are graphical interfaces presenting data, information and intelligence. These situational pictures will be established at national and European level and be structured in a similar way to facilitate the flow of information among them.

In order to improve the capability to detect small vessels, Frontex will set up a service for the common application of surveillance tools, combining, among other things, satellite imagery with information from ship reporting systems.

The approach chosen in EUROSUR is to make the best use of existing capabilities and systems. For this reason, Frontex will cooperate closely with the EU Satellite Centre and the European Maritime Safety Agency (in providing services for the common application of surveillance tools) as well as with EUROPOL (in order to exchange intelligence on cross-border crime).

Which countries will be participating?

EUROSUR will apply to the Member States located at the southern sea and eastern land external borders of the Union (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Spain), as well as to Norway as a Schengen associated country, from 2 December 2013.

EUROSUR will apply to the remaining Member States with land and sea external borders (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden) as from 1 December 2014.

When will EUROSUR be operational?

In order to make the system operational as from 2 December 2013, the development, testing and implementation phases are being carried out in parallel on the basis of a roadmap presented by the Commission in 2008. For more information, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/policies/borders/borders_crossing_eurosur_c_en.htm

In this roadmap the Commission proposed to establish EUROSUR in three phases, consisting of eight steps, thereby reducing the risk for the overall project development in case one step is delayed. Significant progress has already been made and development is expected to continue smoothly, in order to reach the target date for starting operations.

What are the estimated costs?

The cost estimates for EUROSUR amount to €244 million for 2014-2020, including costs for set-up, maintenance and personnel. These costs would be almost fully covered by existing EU programmes under the current and next multiannual financial framework of the Union.

For more information

MEMO/13/580

Cecilia Malmström's website

Follow Commissioner Malmström on Twitter

DG Home Affairs website

Follow DG Home Affairs on Twitter


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