At a meeting of the 'Schengen Council' on 14 October, interior ministers agreed to a number of recommendations on "the migration situation" supposed to address "the current challenging situation at the external borders". Those recommendations have not, until now, been made public.
On Tuesday last week Spain's Council of Ministers approved sending another €30 million to the Moroccan authorities for migration control purposes, the fourth such financial aid package since 2019, according to an article in Spanish newspaper Público.
On 22 September the European Commission hosted a meeting on the "Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism" (VSM), the latest ad-hoc system set up to relocate refugees from the EU's Mediterranean member states to other member states. It appears that the speed of transfers is not as quick as is hoped, with the conclusions noting that it is "crucial that all Member State initiate to implement the pledges," with the need for "a higher pace of transfers already ahead of the December Council meeting."
The growth of EU policy-making on the "external dimension of migration" shows no sign of abating. Two recent documents, published here, cover "migration and security challenges on the Silk Route" and a Ministerial Declaration and the 2023-27 Action Plan for the Prague Process.
The EU should "substantially" increase the number of deportations, the Czech Presidency of the Council has proposed, in a document that sets out four "priority actions in the external dimension" of migration. The Presidency also wants to pressure Serbia to change its visa policy; fight the "instrumentalisation of migration" by non-EU states; and step up the work of information-gathering networks to improve "monitoring of newly emerging trends and the related-early warning activities".
The Egyptian government has been arbitrarily detaining Eritrean asylum-seekers and plans to forcibly remove them to Eritrea. Numerous other rights violations have been documented. A international joint statement organised by Refugee Platform in Egypt and signed by over 30 groups, including Statewatch, condemns the actions of the Egyptian government.
At a recent event hosted by Europol's Innovation Hub, participants discussed questions relating to encrypted data and the ability of law enforcement authorities to access digital information. One issue raised was a possible "EU Vulnerability Management Policy for Internal Security," which could allow for "temporary retention of vulnerabilities and their exploitation by the relevant authorities." In effect, this would mean identifying weaknesses in software and, rather than informing the software developers of the problem, exploiting it for law enforcement purposes.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the work of data protection authorities (DPAs): they are chronically underfunded and lack the staff and resources to do their jobs properly. Figures released earlier this month show the scale of the problem for national authorities, and EU authorities have taken the unprecedented step of calling on the European Parliament not to approve the budget proposed for them for 2023 by the European Commission.
The Czech Presidency of the Council has inserted new provisions into the proposed AI Act that would make it possible to greatly limit the transparency obligations placed on law enforcement authorities using "artificial intelligence" technologies. A new "specific carve-out for sensitive operational data" has been added to a number of articles. If the provisions survive the negotiations, the question then becomes: what exactly counts as "sensitive operational data"? And does the carve-out concern just the data itself, or the algorithms and systems it feeds as well?
The Council Legal Service (CLS) is of the opinion that one of the legal bases used in the proposed Artificial Intelligence Act - an EU treaty provision governing police cooperation measures - "is not justified", and the Act can only rely on provisions relating to the internal market and data protection.
Along with a group of human rights organisations and academic experts, we have signed an open letter to an EU-funded research project, ITFlows, which is developing a tool to "predict migration flows" and "detect risks of tension related to migration". The letter calls on the consortium to "immediately halt the use of the EUMigraTool and stop pursuing the use of any and all technologies that can be used in securitisating migration, and criminalising movement and solidarity with people on the move."
Information released by the Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service in response to freedom of information requests gives some indication of the scale and scope of cooperation under the UK-Greece Joint Action Plan on migration and 'Project Invigor', "the UK’s organised immigration crime taskforce set up to target the criminal networks behind people smuggling impacting on the UK."
Three internal Council documents on the forthcoming multiannual policy cycle on European integrated border management: comments from the member states on the European Commission's policy document published in May, and an initial and amended set of draft Council conclusions on the forthcoming policy cycle.
In June this year the the Court of Justice ruled that the rules governing the EU's system for travel surveillance and passenger profiling, set out in the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive, must be "interpreted restrictively" to conform with fundamental rights standards. The ruling requires substantial changes to member state practices - but the Council, in time-honoured fashion, is looking at how to circumvent it, and to ensure the greatest possible freedom of manouevre for law enforcement authorities.
Europol has been admonished by the European Data Protection Supervisor for the second time this year, for failing to comply with a request from a Dutch political activist to access the data held on him by the policing agency. The European Data Protection Supervisor's investigation found a series of failings by the agency to comply with the law, at a time when its powers to gather and process data have been vastly increased by a recent legal reform.
An open letter signed by 60 organisations from Spain and beyond, including Statewatch, calls on the Spanish government to ensure that civil society groups and independent experts have a say in designing the recently-proposed Spanish Agency for the Supervision of Artificial Intelligence (AESIA). The letter calls for "a clear and a clear and defined civil society participation strategy in the processes and policy development related to Artificial Intelligence," in order to put "human rights and social justice at the centre."
The European Commission has confirmed that €23 million will be allocated in 2022 and €57 million in 2023 to provide equipment and services to Egyptian authorities for "search and rescue and border surveillance at land and sea borders".
The Council of the EU is set to authorise a fresh budget of €72 million for the EU's security and immigration mission in Niger, which is tasked with aiding "Nigerien security actors in the fight against terrorism and organised crime" and the development of "policies, techniques and procedures to effectively control and fight immigration."
The state agencies participating in the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC) have been named in a response to a European parliamentary question. Thirty African states are currently participating in the AFIC. The response also says that "Risk Analysis Cells", of which eight have been set up in African states with the assistance of Frontex, are "the backbone" of the AFIC.
Various sub-groups and action plans have emerged from the various 'migration dialogues' that have been set up over the last decade, such as the Khartoum Process, the Rabat Process and the Budapest Process. This includes cooperation on operational action. The 'dialogues' bring together EU member states along with other European, African, Central Asian and other states. A recent set of presentations given to a Council of the EU working group make no mention of democratic scrutiny or legitimacy.
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