Dossier: Frontex Goes Africa

November 17th, 2021 - written by:

Latest amendments 12.04.2022, 08.09.2022, 01.10.22

Intro Remarks

We edit this collection of texts and links in reference to the Abolish Frontex campaign. Please find additional material on the Abolish Frontex site, but also in our wiki and on the archive list of this site.

Also see the Operationalization of the Pact documents which have recently been published.

Also see the text by Mariana Gkliati and Jane Kilpatrick which has been posted on Forced Migration Review.

The Operation Hera, in 2006, was the first Frontex mission outside EUterritory. Frontex has in these times been titeled als Europe's paramilitary arm (2008). Other publications saw gatherhing information and manhunt(2017) in the centre of Frontex activities in Africa. Meanwhile, Frontex has advanced to be the European Secret Service (2018). Also, it is a Hub of Armament and Suveillance Technology.

With a realistic eye, one realizes that the border posts in the Sahel are buried by sand and some legal limits seem to work, as has been stated in the assessment by an SWP-researcher, in 2019. Since then, however, Frontex is advancing beyond regulations. Several EU documents on the „Operationalization of the Pact“ have recently been published. They all state that the EU Commission intends to step up with the engagement of Frontex in Africa and will use all means necessary for that purpose.

As regards the ongoing Operation Hera, Satewatch has published documents, obtained by ECCHR, in 2017. The documents provided were censored extensively, as Statewatch sais, and it was barely possible to subject the practices of the operational staff and the cooperation between Spain, Frontex and Senegal/Mauritania to further scrutiny. Frontex attempted to justify the withholding of information based on the argument that the blanked out parts contained "detailed information on the modus operandi of law enforcement officials" and that "therefore public security will be affected" if they were published . In 2020, Frontex planned  to send Boat people back to Senegal, whereever they would come from. However, the Senegal governmet has not yet agreed.

Regarding Libya, the respective Operationalization of the Pact document states:

The EU will work to enhance the capacity of the Libyan Border Guard to effectively control Libya’s southern land borders with Niger, Sudan, and Chad. The EU’s efforts will draw upon the capacity-building and operational support provided by EUBAM Libya and Frontex, including via a working arrangement that these two actors are about to conclude. Similar working arrangements are expected to be negotiated by EUCAP Sahel Niger and Frontex, providing a triangular framework for the EU to provide structured support to the Government of Libya and Niger for effective border management at their mutual border.

The respective document on Tunisia states:

The EU will take any opportunity to clarify the role of Frontex and familiarize Tunisian authorities with the agency.

Overview: Investigative Journalism

In 2018, there has been an IJ4EU Project on Invisible Borders, out of which came several articles on biometry, data-tracking, and digitalization of borders in Africa. One of these was published on Spiegel online, 4. July 2019.

The team behind the Invisible Borders project has investigated the process that led to the adoption of biometric technologies in African countries with low levels of electrification, as well as the process behind the regulation proposal on the “interoperability” of databases of third-country nationals in the EU. In both cases, these processes were advanced despite the lack of data on the benefits for citizens and the scepticism of experts and law enforcement regarding increased security.

Overview: Law Research

In February 2020, the Borderlines research group of MPI Heidelberg has published an instructive overview written by Carolyn Moser et al., Frontex goes Africa: On Pre-emptive Border Control and Migration Management. After analysing the Mediterranean context, a section about the „ Africa Frontex Intelligence Community" (AFIC) follows:

Weaving a dense intelligence net: the case of Sub-Saharan Africa

Intelligence gathering also drives the gradual extension of Frontex activities to the African continent. Already in 2010, the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC) was launched which, nowadays, counts 26 countries from all over the African continent. A pivotal element of the AFIC are the so-called Risk Analysis Cells that were set up in the aftermath of the migratory increase of 2015. Staffed with local analysts trained by Frontex, these cells are to collect and analyse strategic data on cross-border crime and support relevant authorities involved in border management. The gathering and assessment of information on illegal border crossings, document fraud, and trafficking in human beings forms explicitly part of the intelligence gathering exercise. This, in turn, underlines that the AFIC’s raison d’être is to advance the pre-frontier intelligence picture by the comprehensive monitoring of migratory movements. The collected and processed data is shared with all relevant authorities at the national and regional level with Frontex. And as for its European ‘pendant’ (the cooperative framework of the Frontex Risk Analysis Network), the input of the African Risk Analysis Cells feeds into regular reports, the AFIC Joint Reports, that also contain policy recommendations.
So far, a handful of Risk Analysis Cells have been set up in Africa since 2018, both in countries of origin and transit along the main migratory routes. The location of the first Cell opened in Niamey (Niger)in 2018 is no coincidence: The Sahel region and in particular Niger is known for being a transit hub for migrants on their way North (mostly to Libya) to reach Europe on the Central Mediterranean route. Further Cells were established in Gambia, Ghana, and Senegal. Thereby, intelligence can also more easily be collected with respect to the Western Mediterranean route (running through West Africa and Morocco to Spain) along which migratory movements have risen steeply in the last years. With a view to enlarging the AFIC to an increased number of countries, Kenya, Guinea, Mali, and Nigeria are planned to host further Cells.
Once all Risk Analysis Cells will be operational, Frontex will have access to a wide and dense intelligence network, especially in West Africa and the Sahel and Lake Chad regions. This pre-frontier intelligence, in turn, will enhance the possibility for pre-emptive border control and extraterritorial migration management on the African continent.
[...] For this strategy to work in the long run, though, checks in African countries would need to be more frequent, and the data would need to be sufficiently reliable. This, however, presupposes a considerable state building and development aid effort. Interestingly enough, the creation of the Risk Analysis Cells is financed by DG DEVCO, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development.

More About the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC)

In November 2020, members of Deutscher Bundestag from Die Linke posed questions about the AFIC network and the yearly AFIC workshops to the german government. The answer especially reveals a broad participation in the AFIC workshops:

According to the knowledge of the Federal Government, the AFIC network currently comprises the following African states: Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola. [...]

Which EU agencies and organs of the CSDP and their missions are currently are currently involved in AFIC (also in individual projects)?

The Federal Government is aware that the annual workshops of the AFIC involve in addition to the EU agencies EASO and FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency), as well as UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), IOM (the International Organisation for Migration), OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in the past also civil law organisations such as the organisations such as the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe), Amnesty International, Save the Children, ECRE (European Council for Refugess and exiles), CCME (Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe), ICJ (International Commission of Jurists), JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service Europe) PICIM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants) and the Red Cross participated. To the knowledge of the Federal Government the European External Action Service (EEAS) as well as the CSDP missions EUCAP SAHEL Niger and EUBAM Libya are also involved in AFIC's work. The Federal Government has no information on the nature and extent of this involvement.

Added 08.09.22:

Answering an inquiery by Mattias Oel, Director of Directorate B – Schengen, Borders & Visa DG HOME, European Commission, Frontex interim Executive Director, Aija Kalnaja, has answered a list of questions about participants of AFIC. Regarding the authorities participating, the paper sais:

The AFIC network is composed by national law enforcement authorities with a mandate in border management, which include risk analysis in the areas covered by the legal basis of Frontex. AFIC partners discuss border management and border security in order to improve awareness of the African border situation and migratory movements. Information shared within the AFIC network is limited to statistical data, use cases, description of modi operandi from border security/border management/risk analysis perspective; and does not contain any personal data. By definition, national intelligence service information is not shared within AFIC activities.
Frontex is not in a position to fully assess which of those law enforcement authorities have powers similar to those of intelligence services.

The paper includes a list of authorities participating. Please find the document here. 

Added 01.10.22:

Statewatch 14.09.22: Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community: participating agencies named:

The state agencies participating in the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC) have been named in a response to a European parliamentary question. Thirty African states are currently participating in the AFIC. The response also says that "Risk Analysis Cells", of which eight have been set up in African states with the assistance of Frontex, are "the backbone" of the AFIC. [...]

Risk Analysis Cells (RACs)

According to the answer, Frontex has recently enlarged AFIC, with new Risk Analysis Cells (RAC) set up in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Togo, and discussions now focussing on Mauritania. The first RAC was launched in Niamey, Niger, in 2018.

RACs are "embedded in the organisational structure of their respective border management authorities", according to the answer, but equipment, training, capacity building and the setting up of integrated border management systems (i.e. ensuring interoperability between EU and West African databases) are provided by Frontex.

Last year, the AFIC online information exchange system was upgraded to facilitate instantaneous communication between RAC and Frontex analysts.

Added 12.04.22:

On March 22, 2022, Matthias Monroy has published a Tweet about Frontex working together with Border troops in Mali, continuously after the Coup. Please find the participants on the AFIC Meeting  in Senegal, November 30 and December 01,2022, on a list published by Frag den Staat. Frag den Staat has also publishe the Agenda of that AFIC meeting.


Risk Analysis Cells

The first Risk Analysis Cell, as part of AFIC, was established in Niamey, in 2018. As Laura Lambert points out in her Wiki entry about Niger, Frontex is part of a broad and innovative initiative on stopping migration movements there. About Frontex involvement, she writes:

The Frontex Liaison Officer, in Niger since August 2017, is one of three Frontex Liaison Officers outside of the EU – alongside Turkey and Serbia. This shows that Niger is a central cooperation partner for Frontex along the central Mediterranean route. The local contact for Frontex is in particular the Border and Migration Police DST.[82] Furthermore, since 2010, Niger has been a member of the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC), a network on migrant smuggling and border security founded by Frontex and 26 African states in 2010. In the framework of this network, Frontex established the first of eight Risk Analysis Cells in Niamey at the end of 2018 in order to collect and analyse data on cross-border crimes such as irregular border crossings, document forgery and human trafficking in various African countries. The aim is to share information and provide guidance to national and regional border authorities and Frontex.[83] These analyses are also based on biometric data[84], according to a Frontex document on MIDAS, PISCES and Securiport, which is used in Mali. The information collected by the national AFIC risk analysis cells will be shared with Frontex on an EU digital platform. The project is funded with 4 million euros from the EU Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO).

Frontex set up such Risk Analysis Cells also in Ghana (1/2019), Gambia (3/2019), and Senegal (6/2019). Kenya, Guinea, Mali, and Nigeria are planned to host further Cells. Some general results are published in the Frontex Risk Analysis.

Border Security Report Nov. 16, 2021 notes that

An important part of our efforts targeting trafficking in human beings also takes place within the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC). Frontex set up Risk Analysis Cells in Gambia, Niger and Senegal that collect and analyse strategic data on cross-border crime and facilitate information exchange between various African countries. Only this year, authorities in Gambia, Senegal and Guinea managed to identify 80 victims of trafficking, including many women and children.

Liaison Officers

About the Liaison Officers, Frontex recently stated:

Frontex Liaison Officers to non-EU countries

Based on the priorities set by the Frontex Management Board, the agency is developing a network of Frontex Liaison Officers (FLOs) in non-EU countries.

2016: FLO to Turkey (based in Ankara)

2017: FLO to Niger (based in Niamey)

2017: 1st FLO to Western Balkans (based in Belgrade, Serbia)

2019: FLO to Senegal (based in Dakar)

2021: 2nd FLO to the Western Balkans (based in Tirana, Albania)

Pending deployment: FLO to the Eastern Partnership (based in Kyiv, Ukraine) Frontex also has experts deployed to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, acting with a liaison function. Since summer 2017, a Frontex expert is supporting the EU Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM) on the ground. Frontex has exchanged experts acting as liaison officers with EU NAVFOR Med Sophia and the NATO Operation in the Aegean Sea.

In order to sustain the growing network of FLOs, the agency collaborates with the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and other EU actors. The FLOs are part of a broader network of other European liaison officers deployed outside of the EU, such as the European Migration Liaison Officers (EMLOs), the European Return Liaison Officers (EURLOs), the Immigration Liaison Officers (ILOs) of EU Member States and future LOs of other EU agencies.


Already in 2017, there was an interesting article by Fabian Grieger about „Migration policy and arms industry: The business with high-tech borders“. There are numerous studies, and we should not forget that Frontex is embedded in a general move towards digital controls of „society“. We already mentioned the informations by Matthias Monroy, the IJ4EU Investigations, and the Frontex Files. Furthermore, there was a report, Biometrics: The new frontier of EU migration policy in Niger, on TNH. Migreurop has recently published a Briefing paper on Data collection and Mobility Control. Meanwhile, Frontex has published a brochure about making use of migrant’s smartphones.

If you wold like to add to this list, please send an mail to