“I am deeply concerned about the difficult situation in the Mediterranean; Norway must bear our share of the responsibility of the responsibility to help. The tragedy where more than 700 lost their lives over the weekend has again demonstrated the desperate situation for refugees attempting to reach Europe», says Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Norwegian authorities have been looking into what kind of contributions that may be relevant.  Last week, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, held meetings at Frontex headquarters in Warsaw. For Norway, it has been important to offer help and assistance according to the needs of the organisation.

The Government has therefore decided to make available one vessel with crew as soon as possible. The crew will consist of civilians and also justice and defence personnel.

“I am glad the EU now place the difficult situation in the Mediterranean high on the political agenda. This is a challenge which must be met by a coordinated European response. Norway will consider further how we may contribute”, says Solberg.

There has been a strong increase in the number of immigrants attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, with a great loss of lives. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said this weekend’s tragedy was the worst ever in the Mediterranean.

“Migration from North Africa to Europe has become an industry where human beings are exploited by organised criminal networks. In a cynical and ruthless way people are sent off on hazardous journey where they have no influence on their own fate”, says Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

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Background Note on Frontex:

Origin

Fostering the free movement of people has been an important objective of European integration since the 1950s. Free movement of goods, persons, services and capital were identified as foundations of the Community in the Treaty of Rome (1957).

Schengen

During the 1980s five Member States (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) decided to create a territory without internal borders. They signed the first agreements in a small town in Luxembourg called Schengen, hence the “Schengen area” – a territory in which the free movement of persons is guaranteed. The original agreement was complemented in 1990 by a convention.

When this convention entered into force in 1995 it abolished checks at the internal borders and created a single external border. Whatever their location, officers working at the external border perform border checks in accordance with identical procedures. The rules governing visas and the right to asylum are also common for all Schengen countries.

In order to keep a balance between freedom and security, participating member states agreed to introduce so-called “compensatory measures”. These are focused on cooperation and coordination of the work of the police and judicial authorities. Organised crime networks do not respect borders, therefore this cooperation is key to safeguarding internal security.

In 1999, with the signing of the Treaty of Amsterdam, this intergovernmental cooperation was incorporated into the EU framework.

Towards Frontex

Since 1999 the European Council on Justice and Home Affairs has taken several steps towards strengthen cooperation in the area of migration, asylum and security.

In the border management field this led to the creation of the External Border Practitioners Common Unit – a group composed of members of the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) and heads of national border control services.

The Common Unit coordinated national projects of Ad-Hoc Centres on Border Control. Their task was to oversee EU-wide pilot projects and common operations related to border management.

There were six ad-hoc centres:

  • Risk Analysis Centre (Helsinki, Finland)
  • Centre for Land Borders (Berlin, Germany)
  • Air Borders Centre (Rome, Italy)
  • Western Sea Borders Centre (Madrid, Spain)
  • Ad-hoc Training Centre for Training (Traiskirchen, Austria)
  • Centre of Excellence (Dover, United Kingdom)
  • Eastern Sea Borders Centre (Piraeus, Greece)

Frontex

Two years after the establishment of “ad-hoc” centres the European Council decided to go a step further. With the objective of improving procedures and working methods of the Common Unit, on the 26 October 2004 the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex) was established by Council Regulation (EC) 2007/2004.

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