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Publication date:27 October 2014

Fundamental rights at airports: border checks at five international airports in the European Union Summary

This summary, and the related full report, look at how fundamental rights obligations translate into practical border management tasks. The report points out challenges as well as promising practices of integrating fundamental rights compliance into operational tasks that do not compromise but instead enhance the effectiveness of border checks.

Objectives - Why this project and for whom?

Surveying border controls

Over 300 million persons, including European Union citizens and third-country nationals cross the external borders of the EU every year. The Schengen Borders Code stresses that EU citizens and persons enjoying freedom of movement in the Union, such as family members of EU citizens, should be subject to minimum border checks. By contrast, third-country nationals must be subject to thorough checks which include purpose of stay, means of subsistence during the stay as well as verification in databases.

According to the Schengen Borders Code, border guards shall perform their duties fully respecting human dignity. Purpose of the project will be to examine how border guard officers deal with the challenge of ensuring that border checks are undertaken with the necessary degree of scrutiny without causing undue delays or resorting to inappropriate treatment.

Details - What does the project involve?

Primary information will be collected from third-country nationals as well as EU citizens crossing the external borders of the EU in order to shed light on their perceptions of the way they were treated. In addition, the views as well as challenges of border guards will be gathered using various research methodologies, according to the degree of access that researchers will be provided.

Data collection will be carried out in selected entry points into the EU focusing on those with the highest numbers of passenger flows.

Innovation - What's 'new' about the project?

This project will use innovative research methodologies in order to collect information on the conduct of border checks. The project will be implemented in collaboration with the EU agency coordinating the operational cooperation between Member States in the field of border security, Frontex, as well as with the national authorities in charge of border controls. Research activities will include passenger surveys as well as different ways to collect the experiences of border guards.

Outputs - What will the project deliver?

The report will identify possible shortcomings as well as good practices in the way border checks are conducted at the main entry points into the European Union (land and air borders). A comparative report will seek to assist policymakers and practitioners to enhance the quality of border checks at crossing points.

Related Information

The Schengen Borders Code emphasises that border checks should be carried out in full respect of human dignity and in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the principle of non-refoulement. Therefore, the FRA 2010 Work Programme envisages a project on the fundamental rights situation of third-country nationals at external EU borders (see Work Programme 2010, section 2.1). A further FRA research project will focus on the treatment of migrants at sea and immediately on arrival at EU territory.