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A strategic inquiry into Frontex's compliance with fundamental rights obligations under its enhanced mandate (2019 Regulation) concluded in January, with the Ombudsman “ask[ing] Frontex to improve its accountability”. The results are very mild compared to the OLAF report, excerpts of which were leaked by Der Spiegel on 28 July.
Responding to a Parliamentary question, Frontex's reply, published here, gives a cursory outline of how its aerial surveillance fits into search and rescue operations, and the agency's knowledge of "Maltese Armed Forces apparently allow[ing] fully loaded and obviously unseaworthy vessels to sail through their maritime rescue zone without taking the necessary measures".
The EU's research programmes have long been criticised for funding dubious surveillance technologies, and authorities have gone to substantial efforts to keep ethics reports secret - most notably in case of the automated lie detector project, iBorderCtrl. But how are ethics issues supposed to be identified and addressed in Horizon Europe research projects? Two presentations obtained by Statewatch set out how the process is meant to work.
Under the Pact on Migration and Asylum, the “screening” of migrants who have entered the EU irregularly or who have applied for asylum will become mandatory. The aim is to establish their identity and to investigate whether they should be considered a “security risk”. To facilitate the screening process, access to the EU’s system of “interoperable” databases is being broadened, with the Council recently approving its negotiating position on new rules granting access to a centralised register of individuals convicted of criminal offences in EU member states.
The European Parliament and the Council of the EU plan to finish negotiating all the asylum and migration laws currently on the table by February 2024, with the aim of having them enter into force by April 2024 at the latest.
The UK government has announced that the 'Data Access Agreement', which seeks to ease the ability of authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to obtain data held by electronic service providers in each others' jurisdictions, will come into force on 3 October. The Agreement allows either side to request "the interception of wire or electronic communications" where deemed necessary.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is touting ‘Enhanced Border Security Agreements’, offering access to its vast biometric databanks in exchange for other states reciprocating. Reports suggest the UK is already participating, although there is no official confirmation of this. In the EU the proposals have caused a furore amongst privacy-minded MEPs. A document produced by the DHS, obtained by Statewatch, shows what the USA is offering foreign states.
The negotiating directives for the proposed status agreement that would allow Frontex to operate in Senegal place a strong emphasis on the need for criminal and civil immunity of Frontex staff in Senegal "under all circumstances", while ensuring the most extensive executive powers possible.
The EU's border agency is also due to open a "risk analysis cell" in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in autumn this year, according to documents obtained by Statewatch and published here. The two "action files" put heavy emphasis on the "prevention of irregular departures" towards the Canary Islands and increased cooperation on border management and anti-smuggling activities. Earlier this month, the Council authorised the opening of negotiations on status agreements that would allow Frontex to operate in both countries.
Last week the European Commission announced two new “operational partnerships” with Morocco and Niger aimed at preventing and punishing human smuggling. The day before the Commission’s announcement, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development signed a cooperation agreement with the Nigerien authorities, to support “the fight against irregular migration”.
A document circulated by the French Presidency of the Council of the EU on 30 June - France's last day of holding the office prior to the arrival of the Czech Presidency - says that during a "political trilogue" meeting with the European Parliament on 28 June, "an agreement [was] reached on the core elements" of the e-evidence proposals, which aim to facilitate the cross-border exchange of electronic data for criminal proceedings. The state-of-play of the Regulation and Directive can be seen in two documents produced following the trilogue, both of which are available here.
On 1 July 2022, five UN Special Rapporteurs (SRs) wrote to the UK government to provide a legal analysis of the UK-Rwandan Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of 14 April 2022 to establish an “asylum partnership arrangement”, focusing on the UK state’s obligations under international human rights law. This MoU raises concerns regarding its compatibility with such obligations.
Negotiations on the EU’s controversial “e-evidence” proposals may be coming to a close soon, according to a note circulated by the French Presidency of the Council on 16 June.
The EU and the USA are to set up an “informal expert group” aiming to “improve the practical implementation” of agreements on mutual legal assistance and extradition.
Council Presidency progress report from 9 June focusses on “operationalisation of the external dimension, including as regards returns”; protection of the external borders; member state solidarity; and “more effective implementation of the Dublin rules”.
EU member states’ police forces will be able to transmit DNA and fingerprint data to the UK from 30 June, as part of post-Brexit cooperation on the ‘Prüm’ network of police databases.
On 15 June the French Presidency of the Council transmitted to the COREPER (the Committee of Permanent Representatives) its proposed mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on Eurodac, the database of asylum-seekers' fingerprints. The plan is to significantly expand the database by introducing new uses, new data categories, and lowering the age limit for inclusion.
The proposed Screening Regulation, part of the EU's Pact on Migration and Asylum announced in September 2020, will see most individuals who enter the EU in an irregular fashion detained at the borders with a view to their swift expulsion. On 15 June, the French Presidency of the Council circulated its proposed compromise text, which is likely to form the basis for negotiations with the European Parliament. We are making it available here, along with the preceding version of the text. It maintains plans to gut a proposed fundamental rights border monitoring mechanism of most of its substance.
The anti-racist group UNITED has documented 48,647 refugee and migrants deaths since 1993, detailed in an updated version of its list of deaths that is being published to coincide with World Refugee Day, 20 June.
Ireland's participation in Frontex activities is governed by agreements that are renewed annually. A Frontex management board decision from March outlines Ireland’s participation in operations and activities for 2022. The payment to Frontex from Ireland is significantly larger than in previous years, particularly in the realm of returns.
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