EU: On Monday 13 October, the EU's latest migrant hunt begins

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A Europe-wide joint police operation aiming to "apprehend irregular migrants and gather relevant information for intelligence and investigative purposes" will run for two weeks from Monday 13 October, building on previous similar efforts that have seen thousands of people arrested.

The operation - named 'Mos Maiorum' in reference to the "time-honoured principles, behavioural models, and social practices that affected private, political, and military life in ancient Rome." [1] - has been organised by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU, who invited other states to join during a meeting of the Council's Working Party on Frontiers in mid-July this year:

"All Member States and Schengen Associated Countries (SAC) are going to be invited to participate in the operation. Depending on the internal organisation in each country, various law enforcement authorities will be involved in the operation, especially border guard authorities." [2]

Currently it is unknown which Member States have chosen to participate, but previous operations have involved the majority of Member States (and Norway and Switzerland, Schengen Associated Countries).

According to a report on the German website Heise, the focus of the operation will be transport hubs - railway stations, motorways, roads and airports - and will involve thousands of officers. [3]

Migrant support groups have been circulating information on the issue. A "travel warning" posted on the website of the German Research Institute on Flight and Migration asks readers to "warn all people without papers!" [4] The Berlin Refugee Strike group has made the same request, [5] and information has also been published in French. [6]

The paper circulated to Member States' delegations in the Council outlined the main goals:

  • Apprehend irregular migrants and gather relevant information for intelligence and investigative purposes;
  • Identify, prosecute and disrupt organised crime groups;
  • Give a clear and updated situation picture concerning the operational area, modus operandi, main trends and possible rapid changes in these aspects;
  • Consolidate joint measures to achieve an impact on illegal immigration (border checks and border surveillance activities);
  • Carry out (based on the outcomes of the risk analysis), control along the main routes of illegal immigration on the main routes followed by illegal migrant networks (within the Schengen Area and at the external borders);
  • Collect and analyse information related to the so-called secondary movement.

    "Secondary movement" refers to migrants and asylum-seekers travelling to another country within the EU beyond the one in which they arrived. Interest in acquiring more intelligence on "secondary movement" has been a feature of previous joint operations, and the Eurodac database of irregular migrants' and asylum-seekers' fingerprints is also used for this purpose. [7]

    Joint police operations focusing on irregular migrants have become a regular feature, happening around once every six months under the auspices of the Member States that holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

    The operation preceding Mos Maiorum was 'Aerodromos', organised by the Greek Presidency of the Council, which targeted 39 airports across the EU: "targeted controls were carried out in intra and extra Schengen flights, in order to track illegal migration, with the use of forged or false travel documents." [8] 130 people were apprehended as a result of the operation. [9]

    Prior to Aerodromos was Perkunas, organised by the Lithuanian Presidency, during which apprehensions made by police and border forces from 25 states aimed at "identifying the link between illegal EU external border crossings and secondary movements of irregular migrants." A total of 10,459 irregular migrants were "intercepted" during the operation. [10]

    Aphrodite, an operation which took place during October and November 2012, saw 5,298 individuals apprehended. A long-standing project initiated by Austria and Hungary, FIMATHU, has led to the apprehension of thousands more undocumented migrants.

    Aside from the immediate effect of ensuring the detention of thousands of people, joint operations such as Mos Maiorum are also intended to enhance the abilities of states to take further, similar action in the future, and to plump up the intelligence databases of EU agencies Frontex and Europol.

    During joint operations Member States' police and border officers may go about their work as usual. The only difference to normal operations would be the submission of data on those apprehended to the organisation coordinating the operation - in this case the Italian Ministry of the Interior and Frontex.

    This data is used, in the words of the German government, to create "a holistic view of illegal immigration flows for the entire internal Schengen space" - therefore allowing for more efficient planning at EU level. [11]

    Post-hoc analysis of operations has also led to some strikingly authoritarian proposals.

    In its analysis of operation Aphrodite, the Cypriot delegation to the Council suggested that detention across the EU should be "stepped up", and raised the idea of "covering the whole Eastern Mediterranean route" with police officers and border guards in a manner akin to "the increased activities of the Greek police at the Greek-Turkish land border" - an operation that has led to numerous deaths as migrants seek to circumvent the controls by entering Greece through more dangerous sea routes.

    Mos Maiorum is to be coordinated by the Italian Ministry of the Interior's Central Directorate for Immigration and Border Police, in "close cooperation" with the EU's border control agency Frontex:

    "Frontex will contribute to the operation by supporting the Italian Authority in providing risk analysis, forwarding information related to secondary movements and data gathered at the external borders."

    The precise extent of Frontex's involvement with "information related to secondary movements" will likely be a point of interest for those following the agency's work, as its legal basis sets out a mandate solely related to the EU's external borders. Despite this limitation, the agency's 2014 work programme outlines its intention to extend "the scope of the information exchanged with Member States to cover intra Schengen migratory flows". [12]

    As well as regular joint police operations targeting migrants, Member States and EU institutions have also cooked up a plan to try and increase the number of people being deported from the EU.

    A "pilot project" will see EU and Member States' institutions applying heavy diplomatic and economic pressure (described as a "consolidated leverage basket") on a selected set of countries, currently Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria and Pakistan. [13]

    Further reading

  • 'Claiming asylum after interception is "abuse" of procedure, claims joint police operation report', Statewatch News Online, April 2014
  • 'EU joint police operations target irregular migrants', Statewatch Journal, vol 23 no 3/4, Febuary 2014

    [1] 'Mos maiorum', Wikipedia
    [2] NOTE from: Presidency to: Delegations, 'Joint Operations "Mos Maiorum"', 11671/14, 10 July 2014
    [3] Matthias Monroy, 'Italien plant zweiwöchige Polizeioperation gegen Migranten in der gesamten EU', Heise Online, 28 July 2014
    [4] Posted on FFM-ONLINE
    [5] '**!!Achtung - Reisewarnung!!*', Berlin Refugee Strike, 1 October 2014
    [6] 'ATTENTION : Les 15 jours d’une grande opération européenne de contrôles des migrations dites “illégales”', Indymedia, 1 October 2014
    [7] 'Annual report on the 2013 activities of the Central Unit of Eurodac pursuant to Article 24(1) of Regulation (EC) No 2725/2000', eu-LISA, 12 June 2014
    [8] Hellenic Police press release, '2-6-2014: A joint European Police Operation under the code name “Aerodromos”, has been held on the initiative of Greece, confronting illegal migration', 2 June 2014
    [9] Europol press release, 'EU-wide police operation tackles illegal immigration in airports', 2 June 2014
    [10] 'Claiming asylum after interception is "abuse" of procedure, claims joint police operation report', Statewatch News Online, April 2014
    [11] 'Erkenntnisse zue Weiterreise von irregulär in die EU eingereisten Migrantinnen und Migranten innerhalb des Schengenraums', Drucksache 17/10623, 10 September 2012
    [12] Frontex, 'Programme of Work 2014'
    [13] 'EU and Member States plan "pilot project" to pressure countries to admit deportees'
    , Statewatch News Online, 22 August 2014

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