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European Commission - Fact Sheet

Extraordinary European Council on Migration: Frequently Asked Questions

Brussels, 23 April 2015

Can Frontex run Search and Rescue operations?

Yes and it already does. The role of Frontex is to support Member States towards effective border control in the Mediterranean region, and at the same time to save lives during these operations.

Regulation 656/2014 establishing the rules for the surveillance of the external sea borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by Frontex clearly states: "border surveillance is not limited to the detection of attempts at unauthorised border crossings but equally extends to […] arrangements intended to address situations such as search and rescue that may arise."

Article 3 of this Regulation further specifies that: "measures taken for the purpose of a sea operation shall be conducted in a way that, in all instances, ensures the safety of the persons intercepted or rescued, the safety of the participating units or that of third parties."

In addition, the Regulation establishing Frontex specifies that Frontex must respect and implement international law obligations regarding Search and Rescue. The obligation to assist people in distress is indeed part of public international law and binds all Member States and Frontex.

Can Frontex increase the resources or change the operational plan of an operation?

The details of joint operations, including the operational area and the necessary assets, are agreed between Frontex and the host state on the basis of the requests for assistance made by the host Member State. It follows that changes to the operational area and the assets and resources of an operation must also be agreed between Frontex and the host Member State.

Can control of the external borders also take place at high seas?

Yes. Under the Schengen Borders Code (Regulation 562/2006), Member States are obliged to control the external borders. The Schengen Border Code does not limit geographically the places "out in the sea" where Member States, supported by Frontex, can exercise surveillance.

Under international law (Article 33 Convention on the Law of the Sea), a coastal state may exercise powers of control of its sea borders not only in its territorial waters but also in the contiguous zone (extending for 24 nautical miles beyond the territorial waters) and even on the high seas a patrol boat of a coastal State may control foreign vessels either in agreement with the flag state or in certain cases even in the absence of such agreements.

How many resources does Frontex Joint-Operation Triton currently have?

The budget of joint-operation Triton for 2015 is €18.250.000. The monthly operational costs of joint-operation Triton are around €2.9 million. The operation is scheduled to run until at the least end of 2015.

Today 21 Member States participate with human (65 guest officers in total) and technical resources (12 technical assets).

Technical equipment: 4 Fixed Wing Aircrafts, 1 Helicopter, 4 Open Shore vessels, 1 coastal Patrol Vessel, 2 Coastal patrol boats.

Human Resources: 65 men/months in total.

How many resources does operation Poseidon Sea currently have?

The current operation started in the Greek Aegean Islands on 1 Feb 2015. It will run until September 2015, with a total budget of €5.260.000.

19 Member States participate with human and technical resources.

Technical equipment: 6 Mobile offices. 1 Fixed Wing Aircraft. 1 Thermo-vision vehicle. 7 Coastal Patrol Boats and 3 Coastal Patrol Vessel.

Human Resources: 10 Guest Officers.

What is "resettlement"?

Resettlement is the transfer of non-EU national or stateless persons who have been identified as in need of international protection to an EU state where they are admitted either on humanitarian grounds or with the status of refugee.

What is "relocation"?

Relocation is the transfer of persons who benefit from a form of international protection in one EU Member State to another EU Member State where they would be granted similar protection.


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