EU: Police chiefs want non-EU countries to "prevent irregular migration from happening"

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Europol and police forces from EU Member States and beyond have called for "more funds [for] enhanced border control, preventive measures in countries of origin, and joint investigative and analysis teams" to deal with irregular migration, according to a leaked Europol report summarising the proceedings of the 2014 European Police Chiefs Convention.

The Convention took place at the end of September 2014, and the report puts particular emphasis on the need for 'buffer states' that take on border control roles for the EU:

"Above all, pre-entry measures such as effective bilateral agreements are key to reducing illegal/irregular migration because once third-country nationals are in an irregular situation in the EU, it becomes more difficult and costly to locate them and address the irregularity. Therefore, it is a policy priority to invest in the country of origin to prevent the irregular migration from happening."

One of the report's recommendations expands upon this, saying that any such agreements should "support a joint holistic policy which raises awareness and covers training, preventing, proactive operations and a coordinated response".

The recommendations were put together by a working group made up of representatives from Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, Europol (as moderator), Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

The negative effects of the "externalisation" of the EU's borders have been documented for some time by the Migreurop network and others. [1] The demand for "effective" bilateral agreements would seem to indicate that Europe's police forces do not consider current arrangements to be working as desired.

A host of initiatives related to the demands of the police chiefs are already underway under the banner of the 'Task Force Mediterannean'. [2] Europol has also attended meetings of the Khartoum Process, which "focuses on the fight against trafficking in human beings and people smuggling". [3]

Return of the Libyan buffer state?

Spanish representative at the Convention, Francisco Javier Albaladejo Campos, is reported as commenting on "the lack of EU representation in Libya and how an EU mission in that country could create some stability and help collaboration with Libya's neighbouring countries."

Since the fall of Gaddafi the EU has put significant effort into attempting to ensure greater control of Libya's borders, as has the Italian government, which in April 2012 reached an agreement with the Libyan "interim authorities" dealing with reception centres, border monitoring, voluntary returns and repatriation. [4]

In May 2013 the EU launched EUBAM (Border Assistance Mission) Libya: "a civil mission under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), to support the Libyan authorities in improving and developing the security of the country's borders," with an annual budget of some €26 million. [5]

In November 2013 the EU mission was accused of training paramilitary groups, [6] while the French website Mediapart reported: "To prevent migrants arriving on European shores, they [the EU] are trying to block them upstream." [7]

However, in October 2013, a leaked European External Action Service document revealed that the mission was no longer even present in Libya:

"The tempo of EUBAM Libya's operations has effectively been put on hold since the events of July 2014 following the mission's emergency relocation to Tunisia. At the time of writing, Member States have already indicated their intent to reduce the size of the Mission from October 2014 to that of a core team, based in Tunis, and which will have very limited operational capacity." [8]

Internal controls

The recommendations also call for improvements in cross-border operational cooperation, demanding improvements in "swift and real-time information exchange" and further action against organised crime groups who facilitate the "secondary movement" (travel within the EU's borders) of "would-be asylum seekers".

Joint police operations targeting irregular migrants and "facilitators" now take place twice a year and are organised by the Member State that holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

There was widespread public outcry in October and November last year when Statewatch helped bring to public attention the 'Mos Maiorum' joint police operation, organised by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU and which sought to "apprehend irregular migrants and gather relevant information for intelligence and investigative purposes." [9] Attempts by MEPs to gather more information on the operation have proven largely unsuccessful, with the Council saying that responsibility for organising the operation lies with the Italian state. [10]

Council documents from December 2014 suggest that Frontex, the EU's border control agency, has begun work on a project intended to improve the functioning of joint police operations targeting irregular migration.

The agenda for the 11 December meeting of the Council's Working Party on Frontiers contains, under the heading 'Final Results on JOINT OPERATION "Mos Maiorum", the item: "'JORA Pilot Project' in support of future operations managed by MSs [Member States] chairing the Presidency of the Council of the EU." [11]

JORA stands for Joint Operations Reporting Application, and is used for "secure and continuous data exchange and provides close to real-time automated reporting and visualisation of operational information," [12] including personal data. Frontex's 2014 work programme includes several projects involving JORA, including providing the system to Member States for national use. Intended outcomes of this include: "Expanded functionalities... in the area of processing personal data and other functionalities at MS level; Increased effectiveness of joint operations." [13]

There was at least one critical voice present at the Convention. The report cites Italian police chief Alessandro Pansa:

"He said it is not up to us - police or law enforcement authorities - as asylum seekers have their reasons for wanting to go to another country due to war, famine, etc. How can we stop these people going to the country of their choice? Italy sees huge numbers of people that don't want to respect the Dublin Regulation criteria - some physically resist and have been arrested. Some resist having fingerprints or photos taken and they have to force them. However, they face these problems and solve them. But we must think about these people's right to choose where they want to go."

Recommendations on irregular migration

The report recommends, among other things, the following:

  • Member States should systematically share and exchange all relevant intelligence data and information with Europol at the early stages of investigations;
  • More emphasis on intelligence-led approaches should be given to Frontex's role at the external borders and in fighting illegal entry to the EU;
  • Europol should strengthen and closely coordinate EU Member States' and third countries' law enforcement authorities activities related to the facilitation of irregular migration;
  • More resources should be devoted to Member States' engagement in EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats) procedures;
  • Cooperation amongst EU institutions and agencies such as the European External Action Service (EEAS), European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) missions overseas, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the Council's internal security committee (COSI) and others, should be reinforced;
  • Guidelines should be developed both at EU and national level taking into account the work of international organisations such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Organisation for Migration, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees ;
  • Europol's dialogue with Member States' police services should be improved;
  • Cross-border operational cooperation should be enhanced through swift and real-time information exchange;
  • Police forces need to strengthen their operations against organised crime groups who facilitate the secondary movement of "would-be asylum seekers" within the EU and/or Schengen area;
  • Law enforcement awareness on the abuse of legal statuses should be enhanced (for example through creating lists of bogus companies), as should operational cooperation, and a move should be made towards standardised investigative techniques;
  • There should be better cooperation between consular services, migration and law enforcement authorities in order to check documents;
  • Member States' operational cooperation with source and transit non-EU countries should be improved through "bilateral and multilateral agreements that support a joint holistic policy which raises awareness and covers training, preventing, proactive operations and a coordinated response";
  • The efforts of police services that fully represent the communities that they serve should be supported, as should the efforts of observatories and monitoring bodies that try to prevent discrimination;
  • There should be investment in professional training related to discrimination.

    The European Police Chiefs Convention is held annually and in October 2013 was attended by "280 senior law enforcement representatives from 44 countries, as well as delegates from key international and partner organisations". Alongside irregular migration and "the failed integration of minorities"; working groups also presented reports and recommendations on economic crime, cybercrime and terrorism.

    Further reading

  • '10,000 "irregular" migrants were "checked" in mass "organised crime" sweep organised by Europol in joint operation with Frontex, Eurojust and Interpol', Statewatch News Online, September 2014
  • Chris Jones, 'EU joint police operations target irregular migrants', Statewatch Journal, vol 23 no 3/4, February 2014
  • 'Millions of euros for new police databases in West Africa', Statewatch News Online, March 2013

    [1] Yasha Maccanico, 'Controls, detention and expulsions at Europe's borders', Statewatch Journal, vol 20 no 3/4, July-December 2010; 'Tunisian authorities undertake border control for Italy', Statewatch News Online, August 2014
    [2] European Commission, 'Implementation of the actions under the Task Force Mediterranean and the Justice and Home Affairs Council conclusions of October', 16222/14, 4 December 2014
    [3] Slovenian Interior Ministry,
    'Ministerial Conference Launches the Khartoum Process to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings and People Smuggling', 28 November 2014
    [4] 'Italy/Libya: Documents unveil post-Gaddafi cooperation agreement on immigration', Statewatch News Online, September 2012
    [5] European External Action Service, 'EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) in Libya'
    [6] Andrew Rettman, 'EU 'civilian' mission training paramilitaries in Libya', EUobserver, 18 November 2013
    [7] 'Hundreds of millions of euros for Libyan borders: EU accused of militarising migration policy', Statewatch News Online, November 2013
    [8] European External Action Service, 'Libya, a Political Framework for a Crisis Approach', 13829/14, 1 October 2014
    [9] 'On Monday 13 October, the EU's latest migrant hunt begins', Statewatch News Online, October 2014
    [10] 'Accountability gap: Joint Police Operation "Mos Maiorum"', Statewatch News Online, 9 January 2015
    [11] Council of the European Union, 'Working Party on Frontiers/Mixed Committee', CM 5307/1/14 REV 1, 9 December 2014
    [12] Frontex, 'General Report 2011', p.19
    [13] Frontex, 'Work Programme 2014', p.50

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