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Immigration liaison officers network: Commission proposes EU-level coordination
16.5.18
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Updated 21.5.18 to include the evaluation on immigration liaison officers and relevant information.
The European Commission has proposed introducing EU-level coordination of the existing network of immigration liaison officers (ILOs), made up of some 500 national officials who work in non-EU countries to gather information and intelligence with the aim of "preventing and combating of illegal immigration, facilitating the return of illegal immigrants and managing legal migration."

See: Proposal for a Regulation on the creation of a European network of immigration liaison officers (COM(2018) 303 final, pdf) and: Annexes (correlation tables and details of legislation to be repealed, pdf); see also: Evaluation of the Council Regulation (EC) 377/2004 on the creation of an immigration liaison officers network (SWD(2018) 197 final, pdf)

The proposal was announced alongside the latest progress report on the European Agenda on Migration and its main aims are the following (emphasis added):

  • Adjusts the title of the Regulation and the key terminology to better reflect the objectives of the proposal, notably the aim to enhance the European coordination of the immigration liaison officers.
  • Further clarifies the definition of immigration liaison officer, making an explicit reference to law enforcement liaison officers working on immigration-related tasks.
  • Introduces a Steering Board at the European level to strengthen among Member States, the Commission and the Union Agencies the network management and coordination of immigration liaison officers deployed to third countries.
  • Ends the obligation of the bi-annual Presidency report, introduces reporting requirements to be agreed by the Steering Board, which will include follow-up actions, and also introduces the possibility for the Steering Board to commission ad-hoc targeted information requests.
  • Reinforces information exchange between immigration liaison officers as well as members of the Steering Board via a secured web-based platform.
  • Provides legal certainty as to processing of personal data by immigration liaison officers for the purpose of fulfilling tasks and activities defined by the proposal.

A job advert posted by the British High Commission in Lagos, Nigeria, illustrates the work of ILOs:

  • To detect and prevent the abuse of passport applications, and identify and disrupt the activity of the organised crime groups behind it.
  • Develop operational intelligence products through the collection, interpretation and evaluation of relevant quantitative and qualitative information sources
  • Work closely with HMG partners at post, host authorities and international partners to support the development of intelligence and investigations to disrupt organised crime groups.

The Commission's own evaluation also expands upon the changing roles of one particular type of immigration liaison officer, the airport liaison officer (ALO):

"The tasks of typical ALOs evolved from checking documents at the entrance of the aircraft of their national airline carrier (as ‘first line of defence’ of the European borders) to assisting (advising) with check-in procedures at the departure area of the airport (beyond the national airline carrier), providing training and other forms of support and advice to various host country authorities in and outside the airports, and developing intelligence relating to irregular migration that forms the basis of criminal investigations and prosecutions."

The evaluation also highlights some numbers:

"While not all Member States presently deploy ILOs, the biggest number of national ILO are deployed by Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Netherland (126, 111, 59, 47, 25 respectively)."

The Commission's explanatory memorandum states (emphasis added):

"the external evaluation of the current ILO Regulation, completed in August 2017, highlighted that the Regulation [agreed in 2011]has had a limited and mostly indirect impact on the establishment of formal networks among ILOs deployed to the same location, on enhancing the collection and sharing of information and on improving coordination of the EU position and activities vis-à-vis third countries.

The evaluation concluded that immigration liaison officers and their networks remain highly relevant in the current global migration context and retain coherence with existing and planned European polices aimed at tackling irregular migration in particular, but it also identified shortcomings. It identified that the limitations of the current ILO Regulation are due to insufficient coordination and engagement at the EU level.

(...)

The objective of the revision of the ILO Regulation is to enhance coordination and to optimise utilisation of immigration liaison officers, including the new European liaison officers deployed to third countries to enable them to respond more effectively to EU priorities in the field of migration."

See: Proposal for a Regulation on the creation of a European network of immigration liaison officers (COM(2018) 303 final, pdf) and: Annexes (correlation tables and details of legislation to be repealed, pdf)

See also: Evaluation of the Council Regulation (EC) 377/2004 on the creation of an immigration liaison officers network (SWD(2018) 197 final, pdf)

And: Commission: latest progress report on the European Agenda on Migration demands "vigilance and coordination across the board"

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