The European Union (EU) has 80,000 kilometres of external land and sea borders and hundreds of ports and airports, with some 100,000 personnel guarding them. Member states have a legitimate interest in controlling who is entering their territory, but border controls must ensure that people seeking asylum have access to the territory and to asylum procedures.
Immigration officials and border guards play an important role in international protection by identifying those in need of protection and admitting them to EU territory, as sending them back could amount to refoulement (forced return). As border guards are not qualified to decide who is a refugee, they need to refer all asylum-seekers to specialized authorities.
To ensure that border management is sensitive about the importance of protection, UNHCR closely cooperates with Frontex (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union) through a liaison office in Warsaw. As Frontex promotes, coordinates and develops European border management in line with human rights standards, UNHCR provides advice and training for border officials. This enables them to identify people in need of protection, spot victims of trafficking and detect those with special needs.