EU: Commission responses to parliamentary questions: Dublin returns to Greece; arrivals in Sardinia; European Tracking Solution; Europol internet monitoring platform

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Commission responses to parliamentary questions: Dublin returns to Greece; arrivals in Sardinia; European Tracking Solution; Europol internet monitoring platform
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Recent responses from Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, to questions from MEPs on:
  • Resumption of return of refugees from other countries to Greece;
  • Measures to restrict the exceptional number of illegal migrants on the Algeria-Sardinia route;
  • Technical details of Europol's European Tracking Solution;
  • Europol platform SIRIUS.

Subject: Resumption of return of refugees from other countries to Greece

5 October 2017
Question for written answer to the Commission E-006264-17

Rule 130
Sotirios Zarianopoulos (NI)

According to G. Mouzala, the Greek Minister for Migration Policy, the return of refugees to Greece is expected to commence shortly under the retrograde provisions of the Dublin Regulation which, even in its amended form, continues to apply the inadmissible country of first entry criterion. According to reports, Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Norway have already submitted applications.

At the same time, living conditions in Greek island hotspots have become intolerable owing to a substantial increase in the number of arrivals, compounded, on the one hand, by the terms of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement and, on the other, by a massive failure on the part of the State to provide adequate resources. Now that certain NGOs have been forced to cease their activities, the need for the mass recruitment of permanent staff has become even more pressing. For example, there is just one nurse for every 850 people in the Kos hotspot.

In view of this:

What is the Commission’s position regarding the request for refugees, to be immediately authorised to leave and travel to their intended countries of destination and for measures to alleviate the dual pressure on the island's hotspots?

How does it view requests not to implement the Dublin Regulation, which would unleash a further wave of refugees returning to Greece, and for the provision of decent provisional accommodation and facilities intended exclusively for the reception and registration of incoming refugees and migrants?

8 February 2018
Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission

A fully functioning EU asylum system is an indispensable part of the wider efforts to stabilise the asylum, migration and border policies and return to the normal functioning of the Schengen area.

Dublin transfers to Greece from other Member States have been suspended since 2011 following two judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, which identified systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum system. Since then, the Greek authorities, assisted by the Commission, the European Asylum Support Office, Member States and international and non-governmental organisations, have made efforts to improve the functioning of the asylum system and significant progress has been made in this respect.

In this context, the Commission recommended, in December 2016, a gradual, carefully-managed resumption of transfers of asylum applicants who have entered Greece irregularly from 15 March 2017 onwards or for whom Greece is responsible from 15 March 2017 under other Dublin criteria.

The resumption of transfers is recommended for a certain categories of migrants, excluding the transfer of vulnerable applicants.

Moreover, applicants should only be transferred if the Greek authorities can give individual assurances in each case that the applicant will be treated in accordance with EC law.

As regards the provisional accommodation and the reception and registration facilities, the Commission is supporting the Greek authorities to improve these by providing substantial funding, technical assistance and expertise. The Greek authorities, with the Commission's assistance, have been working on the winterisation of the reception centres in the islands, by extending/upgrading their capacity with new containers and adequate heating and electricity connections, as well as ensuring cleaning, sanitation and medical care.

Subject: Measures to restrict the exceptional number of illegal migrants on the Algeria-Sardinia route

5 October 2017
Question for written answer to the Commission E-006289-17
Rule 130
Stefano Maullu (PPE)

There has been a sizeable and worrying rise in the number of migrants from Algeria landing along the south-west coast of Sardinia since the adoption by the EU of measures to restrict the traffic in migrants arriving in Italy from Libya.

Just last week 500 migrants arrived in Sardinia from Algeria, as against the 1 106 registered during the whole of the previous year.

The uncontrollable flow of migrants arriving recently is a risk factor in regard to prevention of terrorism. Numbers have risen constantly in recent months and show no signs of subsiding, causing problems in management of the reception system and public order in Sardinia.

Does the Commission plan to assess the possibility of taking urgent measures to restrict the number of migrants arriving on the coasts of Sardinia?

8 February 2018
Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission

In 2017, the total number of irregular migrants having arrived to Italy from Algeria by sea was 1989 compared to 949 arrived in 2016.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency has been providing for operational support to Italy to counter irregular migratory flows in the Central Mediterranean through Joint Operation Triton. The pre-defined operational area for the deployed assets includes the territorial waters and contiguous sea off the southern coast of Sardinia.

The number of assets as well as the intensity of patrols are decided and adjusted in agreement between the Agency and the Italian authorities.

Algeria participates in regional actions such as the Regional Development and Protection Programme aiming to foster self-reliance of forced displaced and resilience of host communities as well as the regional programme Euromed Migration IV which provides a technical platform for dialogue and cooperation on migration, including irregular migration and the fight against smuggling and trafficking in human beings.

A migration dialogue with Algeria is in place since 2015 and ‘Human dimension, migration and mobility’ is one the five EU-Algeria Partnership priorities adopted in March 2017. The EU has put in place innovative financial instruments in order to tackle current and future challenges raised by migration, such as the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, where Algeria can benefit from.

Algeria benefits from regional programmes under the European Neighbourhood Instrument. Finally, a major part of the EU bilateral cooperation portfolio contributes to addressing root causes of irregular migration by addressing local and social development.

Subject: Technical details of Europol's European Tracking Solution

Question for written answer to the Commission E-006852-17
Rule 130
Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL)

Europol is working on the development of a project for a European Tracking Solution (ETS) to monitor GPS-based transmitters using a uniform data protocol. This would standardise the sometimes divergent national surveillance systems. With the participation of the German Federal Criminal Police Office, Europol has carried out a feasibility study and drawn up a concept for the exchange of positioning data between the Member States’ national positioning servers and a central tracking gateway. After a pilot project lasting several weeks, ETS is due to be launched in the first quarter of 2018.

What other information can the Commission provide on Europol’s pilot project for a European Tracking Solution for the development of a tracking gateway for GPS transmitters (please name participants and location(s) of pilot project).

What are the technical specifications of the uniform data protocol for the exchange of positioning data between the Member States’ national positioning servers and a Europol tracking gateway?

When is Europol’s European Tracking Solution expected to be operational, and what measures must be completed by then?

8 February 2018
Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission

Law enforcement partners from Austria, Germany, Denmark, France, Sweden and Norway participated in the European Tracking Solution (ETS) pilot hosted at Europol from 19 October to 18 November 2016. The pilot aimed to test the technical feasibility of the proposed solution. Geo-location data was shared between the participating partners and with Europol via software installed on Europol’s infrastructure.

Analysis of the data exchanged over ETS will only be conducted upon explicit request by the data owner. In such a case, analysis will be performed within Europol’s analysis system. The procedures for processing the data will be specified in consultation with the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

The geo-location standard for the envisaged tracking solution proposed at this stage is the recommended minimum standard from the National Marine Electronics Association. However, in order to allow for differentiation and data owner’s identification at European level, a unique alphanumerical string will be added.

Europol intends to connect up to 12 participating European law enforcement partners in 2018 to a so-called beta version of the exchange solution. As this concerns an ongoing project, the development process is ongoing and may be subject to change.

At the same time, the exchange solution requires a direct secured connection between the participating partners and Europol’s infrastructure.

Subject: Europol platform SIRIUS

23 November 2017
Question for written answer to the Commission E-007204-17
Rule 130
Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL)

Europol has set up the Internet platform ‘Shaping Internet Research Investigations Unified System’ (SIRIUS) for online notifications and for easier deletion or research of Internet content. In addition to law enforcement agencies, Internet service providers also take part in SIRIUS. The corporations Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Uber were invited to the launch.

1. What information (such as contact points in Member States, requests for deletion of Internet content, rejected user accounts, content data) is stored in SIRIUS, and which of these data are personalised?

2. To what extent should SIRIUS contain information on accounts and Internet content, which should be further monitored by the police and secret services and therefore not deleted by Internet service providers?

3. How many requests for deletion has the ‘Internet Referral Unit’ made to Internet companies, and for how many of the requests is the result that accounts or content should remain online for further monitoring?

9 February 2018
Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission

In light of the increasingly greater number of requests for operational support received from Member States, the EU Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) at Europol recently launched SIRIUS to support online law enforcement investigation. SIRIUS provides a secure environment covering information related to Online Service Providers (OSPs) with manuals, tips, forums, questions & answers - as well as law enforcement developed tools to support Internet-based investigations. It provides guidance, amongst others, to investigators on the type of data that can be directly retrieved from their services.

The information contained within SIRIUS does not include personal data, or requests for deletion of user accounts. SIRIUS is a capacity-building tool fostering knowledge exchange. Currently, 372 law enforcement representatives from EU Member States are members of SIRIUS and are making use of the guidelines on 19 OSPs as well as of the 13 tools which (contributed by the EU IRU and EU Member States) to support Internet-based investigations.

The EU IRU remains committed to flagging terrorist content to host platforms. To date, the EU IRU has assessed in total 42,066 pieces of content, which triggered 40,714 decisions for referral across over 80 platforms in more than 10 languages.

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