Wednesday

17th Jul 2019

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

  • Themis, the EU's naval operation under Frontex, wants to stop alleged terrorists from reach mainland Europe. (Photo: Frontex)

The EU border and coast guard agency Frontex is stepping up intelligence gathering of migrants plucked from the sea following the launch of a new Central Mediterranean naval operation.

On Thursday (1 February), it launched its Themis mission, geared towards cracking down on alleged terrorist suspects and criminals. Vessels will still perform search and rescue, when required.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But its redoubled security-centric mandate marks a departure from previous Frontex naval operations, and exposes a broader EU refocussing on people rescued at sea as potential threats.

A spokeswoman at the Warsaw-based agency told EUobserver in an email that operation Themis will have a "significant security component".

She noted that this includes "the collection of intelligence and other steps aimed at detecting foreign fighters and other terrorist threats at the external borders."

Information gathered by Frontex-deployed officers in Themis will be passed on to the Italian authorities and to the EU's police agency, Europol.

Themis' operational zone spans the Central Mediterranean, covering inward flows from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Albania. That now includes the Adriatic Sea given the drug routes coming in from Albania.

Some researchers suspect that the renewed emphasis on stemming flows of people from places like Libya is triggering an anti-smuggling business to emerge.

A joint-report out Thursday by the Institute for Security Studies and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime says Libyan militia leaders "are attempting to launder their reputations by accepting incentives to serve as law enforcement partners of international donors."

Law enforcement

The agency's boss Fabrice Leggeri last week said Frontex should be viewed as a law enforcement agency so it wouldn't have to stick to the privacy rules when it comes to sharing the personal data of people.

"When it comes to data which are relevant to criminal investigations or may feed some intelligence agencies in member states, indirectly, then I think we need to be considered as a law enforcement agency," he told MEPs in the terrorism committee.

Frontex already passes on details of people to the EU's police agency, Europol. Last year, it handed over some 1,300 'packets' of intelligence to the Hague-based agency.

"Who would have imagined three years ago that an agency like Frontex collects personal data, transmits it to Europol, and to the state police services to carry out investigations and do what they need to do to prevent attacks," said Leggeri.

EU rescue mission yet to receive extra cash or boats

Plans for more money and boats to expand the EU’s surveillance mission Triton in the Mediterranean have yet to be realised as migrants continue to attempt to make the perilous sea journey.

Magazine

Frontex puts down roots in Poland

Frontex, the EU border and coastguard agency, will grow three-fold in five years. It will build a new office in the Polish capital despite rising tensions over migration policy between Warsaw and Brussels.

Analysis

Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?

The past 18 months have seen the EU's border agency Frontex morph into a law enforcement as it steps up efforts to crack down on crime and terrorism.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

EU guilty of Libya migrant 'tragedy', ICC lawsuit says

EU states' efforts to "deter" migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people and exposed 40,000 others to "crimes against humanity", according to a lawsuit filed in The Hague on Monday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  2. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  3. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  4. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  5. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?
  6. EU commission has first-ever woman president
  7. Son: Malta trial for murdered journalist 'not enough'
  8. Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us