EU: Claiming asylum after interception is "abuse" of procedure, claims joint police operation report
A formal report produced by the Lithuanian Council Presidency argues that migrants who submit applications for international protection after they have been "intercepted" (apprehended) by national authorities are abusing the asylum procedure.
A large-scale joint police operation, codenamed PERKUNAS , was organised by the Lithuanian Presidency and carried out in September 2013. It aimed at "identifying the link between illegal EU external border crossings and secondary movements of irregular migrants within the EU and the Schengen Area," and the final report said that:
"Considering that the largest proportion (72.94%) of irregular migrants submitted applications for international protection after interception, this could be assessed as a definite quantitative indication of abuse of asylum procedure." 
Escaping the Dublin system?
An alternative explanation might be that many of those who submitted applications for international protection during or after their capture were trying to avoid the strictures of the Dublin system, in which asylum-seekers are supposed to apply for asylum in their country of arrival in Europe.
A recent research report argued that this system is based on an "intrinsically flawed premise" that there is "a level playing field across Europe with harmonised standards of protection". The report, Lives on Hold, found that:
"There are vast divergences in the way Member States apply the Dublin Regulation. As a result, asylum seekers subject to the Dublin Regulation are not always guaranteed a fair and efficient examination of their asylum claim. Having sought protection in Europe, such asylum seekers are often left in a prolonged state of anxiety and uncertainty with their lives effectively 'on hold'." 
Many Member States have suspended returns of asylum-seekers to Greece, and in February the Belgian government temporarily suspended transfers to Bulgaria due to deficiencies in the asylum system. 
An article in the New Statesman recounts one of the thousands of individual tragedies caused by the Dublin system:
"Najib tried to escape his Greek nightmare several times. The 25-year-old Afghan made it as far as Germany, where he lived for one year before he was caught and told to leave within 10 days. He went to the Netherlands; they sent him back to Germany, where he spent a month in prison before being deported back to Greece, the country of his first fingerprint. Confined to Athens, Najib contends with daily harassment from the police and Golden Dawn. When a Golden Dawn supporter beat him up, he went to the police, who asked for his ID, and on seeing his temporary residence permit was out of date, jailed him for 10 days." 
A "tradition well-established"
Joint police operations aimed at intercepting irregular migrants within the EU are set to continue. PERKUNAS was the latest operation in a "tradition well-established by previous EU Presidency Member States". Predecessor operations have had codenames such as HERMES, MITRAS, DEMETER, BALDER and APHRODITE.
The Lithuanian Presidency's final report says that PERKUNAS was "very active, with 25 participating Member States" - 23 EU Member States along with Norway and Switzerland, both Schengen Associated Countries.
Frontex contributed by processing data gathered relating to crossings of external EU borders, and AQUAPOL ("the European network for cross-border cooperation in the area of law enforcement in the waterborne transport domain) also took part, "with the results gathered through the AQUAPOL network".
Over two weeks in September 2013 a variety of non-personal data on was passed back to the Lithuanian Border Guard and Frontex for further analysis, including location of interception; means of transportation; routes followed; intended route and final destination; whether fraudulent documents were used and whether the individuals applied for asylum.
A total of 10,459 irregular migrants were "intercepted" during the operation. The 'top five' Member States apprehended hundreds or even thousands of individuals: Italian authorities "apprehended" 4,800 irregular migrants; in Germany 1,606 people were apprehended; in the UK 825, in Hungary 694, and in Austria 411.
The 'top five' countries of origin of those intercepted were Syria (3,770 people); Eritrea (1,347); Afghanistan (590); Palestine (328) and Ukraine (267).
The Lithuanian Presidency concluded that further information-gathering operations should be carried out, in order to facilitate further measures, suggesting in its final report that:
"[S]ystematic collection of information on secondary movements within the EU MS [Member States] and SAC [Schengen Associated Countries] might serve as a reference for specific targeted law enforcement compensatory measures against irregular secondary movements within the EU MS and SAC."
"Boats are the most frequently-used means of transportation to enter the EU across external borders, in particular by Syrian and Eritrean nationals. However trains, which are the second-ranking means of transportation, are intensively used by Syrians, Eritreans and Afghans for irregular secondary movement inland. This finding could serve as a specific reference for the law enforcement authorities responsible for targeted compensatory measures on the territories of the EU MS and SAC."
Calls for oversight
Andrej Hunko, a German MP of the party Die Linke, has along with his parliamentary colleagues frequently submitted questions in the Bundestag (German Parliament) to the German government about EU police cooperation working groups, networks and joint operations.
Answers from the German Interior Ministry to questions submitted at the beginning of this year on 'cooperative activities and projects conducted by European police forces in the second six months of 2013' have recently been translated into English, providing a wide variety of information on state bodies that usually undertake their work far beyond public scrutiny. 
Asked by Statewatch about operation PERKUNAS and its predecessors, Hunko said:
"The biannual police operations against migrants come together with racist controls. They are another tool to limit the freedom of movement in the EU. Officially, Frontex is not allowed to take part. But the statistics generated while controlling and arresting people will serve the border agency as the bookkeeper for unwanted migrants. The networks of border police, airport police or railway police are becoming more and more important. But to whom are they responsible?"
EU joint police operations against irregular migrants are examined in more detail in the latest issue of the Statewatch Journal.
 Presidency, 'Final report on operation PERKUNAS', 16045/13, 11 December 2013
 Dublin Transnational Project, 'New report "Dublin II regulation: lives on hold'
 Asylum Information Database, 'Belgium temporarily suspends Dublin transfers to Bulgaria', 21 February 2014
 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, 'Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey: The Syrian refugees at Europe's gateway', New Statesman, 8 March 2013
 Federal Ministry of the Interior, 'Bundestag Printed Paper 18/274', 10 February 2014
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