Frontex has been allowed to conclude stationing agreements with third countries since 2016. However, the government in Dakar does not currently want the EU border police in the country. Nevertheless, Frontex has been active there since 2006.
When Frontex was founded in 2004, the EU states wrote into its border agency’s charter that it could only be deployed within the Union. With developments often described as the “refugee crisis,” that changed in the new 2016 regulation, which since then has allowed the EU Commission to negotiate agreements with third countries to send Frontex there. So far, four Balkan states have decided to let the EU migration defense agency into the country – Bosnia and Herzegovina could become the fifth candidate.
Frontex also wanted to conclude a status agreement with Senegal based on this model. In February 2022, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, announced that such a treaty would be ready for signing by the summer. However, this did not happen: Despite high-level visits from the EU, the government in Dakar is apparently not even prepared to sign a so-called working agreement. It would allow authorities in the country to exchange personal data with Frontex.
Senegal is surrounded by more than 2,600 kilometers of external border; like neighboring Mali, Gambia, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, the government has joined the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Similar to the Schengen area, the agreement also regulates the free movement of people and goods in a total of 15 countries. Senegal is considered a safe country of origin by Germany and other EU member states like Luxembourg.
Even without new agreements, Frontex has been active on migration from Senegal practically since its founding: the border agency’s first (and, with its end in 2019, longest) mission started in 2006 under the name “Hera” between West Africa and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic. Border authorities from Mauritania were also involved. The background to this was the sharp increase in crossings from the countries at the time, which were said to have declined successfully under “Hera.” For this purpose, Frontex received permission from Dakar to enter territorial waters of Senegal with vessels dispatched from member states.
Senegal has already been a member of the “Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community” (AFIC) since 2015. This “community”, which has been in existence since 2010, aims to improve Frontex’s risk analysis and involves various security agencies to this end. The aim is to combat cross-border crimes, which include smuggling as well as terrorism. Today, 30 African countries are members of AFIC. Frontex has opened an AFIC office in five of these countries, including Senegal since 2019. The tasks of the Frontex liaison officer stationed there include communicating with the authorities responsible for border management and assisting with deportations from EU member states.
The personnel of the national “Risk Analysis Cells” are trained by Frontex. Their staff are to collect strategic data on crime and analyze their modus operandi, EU satellite surveillance is also used for this purpose. Personal data is not processed in the process. From the information gathered, Frontex produces, in addition to various dossiers, an annual situation report, which the agency calls an “Pre-frontier information picture.”
Officially, only national law enforcement agencies participate in the AFIC network, provided they have received a “mandate for border management” from their governments. In Senegal, these are the National Police and the Air and Border Police, in addition to the “Department for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Similar Practices.” According to the German government, the EU civil-military missions in Niger and Libya are also involved in AFIC’s work.
However, according to Frontex’s response to a FOIA request, intelligence agencies are also directly involved in AFIC: Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire send their domestic secret services to AFIC meetings, and a “Center for Monitoring and Profiling” from Senegal also participates.
Cooperation with Senegal is paying off for the EU: Since 2021, the total number of arrivals of refugees and migrants from Senegal via the so-called Atlantic route as well as the Western Mediterranean route has decreased significantly. The recognition rate for asylum seekers from the country is currently around ten percent in the EU.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: Frontex’s “Risk Analysis Cells” met in Dakar in 2021 (Frontex).