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This week, from 7 to 11 April 2008, an exercise is being conducted by the members of Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT), organised by the Slovenian Police and the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the EU Member States (Frontex). Today a press conference was held at the Podlehnik police station, where representatives of the Slovenian Police and the Frontex agency presented the purpose and course of the exercise, as well as the activities of Rapid Border Intervention Teams.

novinarska

The exercise, in which 30 RABIT members from 20 European countries are participating, is taking place in the area of the Maribor and Celje police directorates, which are in charge of over 160 km of the EU external border and are among the most heavily burdened police directorates as far as state border control in Slovenia is concerned. Danijel Lorbek, head of the Border Police Division, Uniformed Police Directorate, General Police Directorate, said the main purpose of the exercise was to test how members of Rapid Border Intervention Teams exercise their powers in practice. He pointed out that the fight against illegal migration and control of the EU external border were among the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency. "For this reason and in agreement with the Frontex agency, this exercise was included in the activities to be carried out during the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council. This is the first RABIT exercise taking place at the EU external land border, while previously such an exercise was conducted in November 2007 at the ┬ŞPorto Airport in Portugal."

Lorbek

Gil Arias Fernandez, Deputy Executive Director of the Frontex agency, explained that RABIT was established in 2007 with Regulation (EC) No. 863/2007 establishing a mechanism for the creation of Rapid Border Intervention Teams: "This provides for rapid assistance to Member States which are faced with a sudden increase in illegal migration at external borders and which could not effectively stem it alone. Of course, the responsibility for border control remains a Member States' competence and RABIT are intended to provide short-term assistance."

Fernandez

He described the role of the Frontex agency and the procedure to activate the teams. The agency manages a special pool of about 600 officers from individual Member States, who are highly qualified to perform different types of border control and were selected for the pool from their countries. "Whenever a Member State requires the Frontex agency to provide assistance in the form of RABIT member deployment, the agency selects officers that have relevant skills to efficiently respond to the situation at hand. This ensures great flexibility in composing an adequate group of police officers who will be able to effectively face a situation of crisis. These teams are like firefighters, always ready to lend a hand in case of fire." Thus far intervention of Rapid Border Intervention Teams, which include four Slovenian police officers, has not been needed in practice.

Slo avstrijska MP

The exercise in Slovenia is based on a fictitious scenario according to which the number of cases of illegal migration across Slovenia's external border has suddenly increased, which is reflected in illegal migrants' attempting to cross the border at border crossing points and outside them. The RABIT members thus conduct the exercise at border crossing points and at the green border. At border crossing points, work is carried out mostly by officers who are experts in detecting counterfeit documents and performing thorough border checks, while RABIT members who deal with the surveillance of the state border have been especially trained to use night observation devices and thermovision cameras.

Slo latvijska patrulja

Ten RABIT members perform border checks at the border crossing points Gru┼íkovje (6 members) and Zavr─Ź (4 members). The remaining 20 RABIT members perform tasks of state border surveillance at the police stations Ormo┼ż (10 members), Podlehnik (4 members) and Roga┼íka Slatina (6 members).

slo nemska patrulja

They carry out their tasks in three shifts, always together with Slovenian police officers. Before the exercise the Frontex agency organised training for exercise participants, where they were acquainted with the powers given by the regulation on their establishment and the Schengen Borders Code.

Slo francoska MP

Danijel Lorbek described these powers in more detail. As he said, RABIT members have the same powers for carrying out border control and surveillance as Slovenian police officers: "Article 6 of the regulation lays down that RABIT members may exercise all the powers specified in the Schengen Borders Code. The powers must be carried out in accordance with the instructions of border police members of the host country (in this case Slovenia) and exclusively in their presence. They wear their national uniforms and a blue armband with Frontex insignia, identifying them as RABIT members. They are armed with the same weapons that domestic police are allowed to carry. They can use weapons and force only with the consent and in the presence of domestic police officers, and without consent only in self-defence and in an emergency. The only thing RABIT members are not authorised to do is to refuse entry into the country in which they are active (in this concrete case, Slovenia), since only a domestic police officer can take this measure."

francoz

Gil Arias Fernandez pointed out that RABIT members must respect human rights and observe national and European legislation.

Slo nemska MP

According to Lorbek, illegal migrations in Slovenia are on the decrease. In 2007, 2,479 cases of illegal crossing of the state border were recorded in Slovenia, which represents a 38.4% decrease compared to 2006, when the number was 4,026. Most cases (77.1% or 1,913) of illegal crossing were detected at the border with Croatia. A similar downward trend in the number of illegal migrants has also continued in 2008, as only 211 (334) illegal crossings of the border were recorded in the first two months, which is a 39% decrease compared to the same period of 2007.

sefi MP

The Slovenian Police representative emphasised that this RABIT exercise in Slovenia is only one of the activities organised together with the Frontex agency. The Slovenian Police, for example, hosts foreign police officers in the framework of contact points (cooperation at these points will be especially active during the European football championship in Switzerland and Austria), organises joint operations (this year, like last year, we will organise two) and takes part in joint operations in other countries and in other projects of the Frontex agency.

nemec slo francoz slo

At the end, the Frontex deputy executive director praised excellent organisation of the Slovenian police as the exercise has proceeded very well and yielded good results. The exercise participants have uncovered cases of money forgery, cigarette smuggling and overstaying visas. Mr Fernandez visited some teams in the field and could see for himself that the cooperation between Slovenian and other police officers members of RABIT was very good. "I can only conclude that the creation of RABIT is a further step towards establishing common standards of external border control in the EU Member States," he said.

policista na pohodu

 Illegal migration in Slovenia (statistical data)