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Frontex holds conference of heads of international airports


On 7 March 2017, Berndt Koerner, the Deputy Executive Director of Frontex opened the 9th heads of airports conference in Cascais, Portugal.

The conference, hosted by the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service, gathered more than 140 participants representing all major European and non-European airport authorities responsible for border control.

The main topics discussed during the conference included threats to airport border security, methods to detect forged and fraudulent travel documents, foreign terrorist fighters and trafficking in human beings. Specific areas such as Schengen evaluation and monitoring activities, risk analysis forecasts, and cooperation with non-European partners and international organisations were also featured during the meeting. 

“Border guards working at airports face entirely different challenges than those working at maritime or land border. This is clear when you realise that only last year more than 400 million passengers entered the European Union via its international airports,” said Koerner. The obvious challenge for border guards working at airports is to ensure that legitimate travellers pass through quickly, while any kind of illegal activity is detected in a timely manner. “On average, a border guard working at an airport has only a few seconds to decide whether a passport or a visa presented by the traveller is not forged, whether the baby sleeping in a pram is not a victim of trafficking or whether the person attempting to cross our external border is not on a wanted list.  This understandably requires border guards to have a remarkable level of training and skill as European safety is very much in their hands,” – he added.

Sharing of knowledge between authorities not only within Europe, but also with non-European partners is therefore crucial. The annual event serves as a platform for exchange of information between airport authorities on latest tactics of criminal networks and effective ways to fight cross-border crime. 

Conference participants included European airport authorities, as well guests from countries outside of the EU, such as Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Cape Verde, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and the US. International organisations including Interpol, IOM, MARRI, UNHCR and UNODC were also represented at the event.

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