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Minister says "there will be no refugee camps in Bosnia"; Frontex to receive powers to intervene in Albania
9.7.18
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The Bosnian Security Minister has reportedly said that "there will be no refugee camps in Bosnia" following a sharp increase in people arriving in the country and hoping to travel onwards to the EU. Meanwhile, the EU is close to finalising an agreement with Albania that would allow the border agency Frontex to intervene on Albanian territory for the purposes of border control and return operations.

Refugees in Bosnia

See: Bosnia unwilling to be turned into EU migration ‘hotspot’ (EurActiv, link)

"As EU states look to stem migrant flows to the continent, aspiring European Union member Bosnia is caught in the middle, with thousands of immigrants stuck in the impoverished Balkan country.

The vast majority of migrants and refugees aim to claim asylum inside the 28-nation EU and Bosnia is irritated at European plans which would see their movement halted at its frontier — in effect making Bosnia the continent’s border guard.

In early June, the European Commission agreed to provide Bosnia with €1.5 million to help cope with the arrivals seeking to reach the EU.

As a key section of the migrant route into Western Europe, Bosnia decided to set up a reception centre in Velika Kladuša, in the country’s northwest, near the border with EU member Croatia.

But Security Minister Dragan Mektic, indicating the European Commission has since said they did not want to finance a facility they were concerned was too close to the border, on June 27 vowed “there will be no refugee camps in Bosnia”."

Frontex in Albania

South of Bosnia, the EU and Albania are finalising a new agreement that would make possible the deployment of Frontex teams on Albanian territory.

The Council must agree upon a Decision on the conclusion of the agreement between the EU and Albania, and upon a Decision on the signing of that agreement on the behalf of the EU. The European Parliament must then give its consent to the agreement - the rapporteur for the procedure in the Parliament (EP, link) is Green MEP Bodil Valero.

See: Proposal for a COUNCIL DECISION on the conclusion of the status agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Albania on actions carried out by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in the Republic of Albania (COM(2018) 458 final, 13 June 2018, pdf)

"While the migration flows in the region are much lower than in 2015/2016, organised crime networks adapt quickly their routes and methods for smuggling migrants to any new circumstances. With the status agreement in place, the responsible Albanian authorities and the EU Member States, coordinated by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, will be in a much better position to quickly respond to such possible developments (...)

A reinforced control of the Republic of Albania's borders will also positively impact the EU external borders, in particular the external borders of Greece, as well as the borders of the Republic of Albania. Further strengthening security at the external borders is also in line with the European Agenda on Security (...)

"Under this Agreement, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency shall be able to deploy European Border and Coast Guard teams with executive powers in the Republic of Albania to carry out joint operations and rapid border interventions. European Border and Coast Guard teams shall also be allowed, in the course of a specific return operation, to assist the Republic of Albania in identifying the persons to be readmitted to the Republic of Albania, in line with the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Albania on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation.

European Border and Coast Guard teams may be deployed on the Albanian territory only in regions bordering the EU external borders."

The document contains explanations of the articles set out in the foreseen agreement - which is contained in the Annex (pdf).

See also: Proposal for a COUNCIL DECISION on the signing, on behalf of the Union, of the status agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Albania on actions carried out by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in the Republic of Albania (COM(2018) 459 final, 13 June 2018, pdf) and: Adoption - Request for the consent of the European Parliament (10767/18, pdf)

The foreseen status agreement includes the following:

"Article 6

Privileges and immunities of the members of the team

(...)

2. Members of the team shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the Republic of Albania in respect of the activities acts performed in the exercise of the official functions in the course of the actions carried out in accordance with the operational plan.

In the event of an allegation of a criminal offence being committed by a member of the team, the Executive Director of the Agency and the competent authority of the home Member State shall be notified immediately. Prior to the initiation of the proceeding before the court, the Executive Director of the Agency, after careful consideration of any representation made by the competent authority of the home Member State and the competent authorities of the Republic of Albania, shall certify to the court whether the act in question was performed in the exercise of their official functions in the course of the actions carried out in accordance with the operational plan. Pending the certification by the Executive Director of the Agency, the Agency and the home Member State shall refrain from taking any measure likely to jeopardise possible subsequent criminal prosecution of the member of the team by the competent authorities of the Republic of Albania.

If the act was committed in the exercise of official functions, proceedings shall not be initiated. If the act was not committed in the exercise of official functions, proceedings may continue. The certification by the Executive Director of the Agency shall be binding upon the jurisdiction of the Republic of Albania. Privileges granted to members of the team and immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the Republic of Albania do not exempt them from the jurisdiction of the home Member State.

(...)

4. The immunity of members from the criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the Republic of Albania may be waived by the home Member State as the case may be. Such a waiver must always be an express waiver.

5. Members of the team shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses.

6. In case of damage caused by a member of a team in the exercise of official functions in the course of the actions carried out in accordance with the operational plan, the Republic of Albania shall be liable for any damage.

(...)

8. The immunity of members of the team from the jurisdiction of the Republic of Albania shall not exempt them from the jurisdictions of the respective home Member States.

(...)"

It appears that Frontex and the Albanian authorities already have a good level of cooperation. Amongst other things mentioned in the agency's 2017 Annual Activity Report (pdf) is the following (emphasis added):

"Joint Action with Albania to mitigate the flow of Albanian irregular migrants towards EU/SAC Countries: Based on a stable flow of Albanian citizens arriving by air to different EU MS, Frontex planned with the Albanian authorities a joint action in order to implement specific measures to mitigate this flow of irregular migrants towards EU/SAC Countries. The specific aim of the common measures, undertaken in the frame of the current Frontex activities, was in the short term (immediate), to strengthen the credibility of Albanian and European Union border guards working together at Tirana (TIA) airport when informing potentially irregular Albanian citizens of the risk of being refused entry at European Union/Schengen Associated Countries airports of arrival. The specific aim in the medium-long term (three to six months) was to generate a deterrent effect that would dissuade Albanian citizens from potentially travelling to MS/SAC airports without fulfilling the entry conditions, reducing also the risk of losing the money they spent on their travel. Frontex deployed a team of six EU Advisers/Observers present at the same time at Tirana airport covering all the flights to EU airports and simultaneously eight Albanian officers/observers (two for each period) at the most affected EU/SAC airports (Ljubljana (LJU), Milan (MXP), Rome (FCO), Paris (CDG), Venice (VCE), Brussels (BRU), and Vienna (VIE)). In total 23 EU advisers/observers were deployed in the period 5 September – 22 December 2017 at Tirana Airport in this joint action. There were 1495 incidents reported involving nearly 2000 migrants. The migrants refused entry were mainly those having an adverse immigration history, or lacking funds or accommodation arrangements or a credible story concerning their intended stay in the EU."

Further reading

Briefing: Frontex: cooperation with non-EU states (March 2017, pdf)

Frontex in the Balkans: Serbian government rejects EU's criminal immunity proposals (Statewatch News Online, 5 July 2017)

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