"A huge number of migrants": over 19,000 people apprehended during joint police operation Mos Maiorum

More than 19,000 people were apprehended during 'Mos Maiorum', the Europe-wide joint police and border guard operation that took place over two weeks in October 2014. More than a quarter of the people who encountered the authorities were Syrian, according to a leaked copy of the final report.

"Syrian nationals (5088 people) were the most detected irregular migrants, followed by Afghans (1466 people), K-Serbians [Kosovars] (1196), Eritreans (1116), Somalis (641) and Albanians (587)," says the report, authored by Italian officials. 11,046 people requested asylum "during or after their interception".

The report contains extensive statistics, including:

"During the implementation of the Joint Operation "MOS MAIORUM", a total of 6002 incidents were reported (1538 at the external borders and 4464 at the internal borders), with a total number of 19234 irregular migrants intercepted.

"In particular, as showed in the Table 1, the number of irregular migrants intercepted at the external borders reached 9890, while 9344 were found at the internal borders/inland." (p.7-8, emphasis in original)


"(…) a total of 257 facilitators were apprehended: 53 at the external borders and 204 at the internal borders." (p.19, emphasis in original)

The number of "apprehensions" is nearly double that reported for Operation Perkunas, which took place during September and October 2013 and nearly quadruple that reported for Operation Aphrodite, which took place during October and November 2012.

According to the report all EU Member States except Croatia, Greece and Ireland participated in Mos Maiorum. Norway and Switzerland also took part, and Frontex "supported the Italian authorities by providing a final analytical assessment concerning the illegal border crossings at the EU's external borders.

The report does not state the number of police officers and border guards involved in the operation. None of the reports available for previous similar operations contain any such figures.

In numbers: Mos Maiorum and predecessors [1]

  • Mos Maiorum, October 2014: two weeks, 27 states, 19,234 apprehensions
  • Perkunas, September-October 2013: two weeks, 25 states, 10,459 apprehensions
  • Aphrodite, October-November 2012: two weeks, 28 states, 5,298 apprehensions
  • Hermes, 2010: unknown duration, 22 states (and AQUAPOL, TISPOL, RAILPOL networks), 1,900 people apprehended

Such operations have come a long way since December 2010, when the final report on Hermes noted that "there was no common image of illegal immigration within the EU whatsoever [as opposed to at the external borders]. This made an integrated approach of the phenomenon virtually impossible… However, a one-week coordinated operation was not enough to gather a large enough sample of data to be representative."

Human rights concerns

The report stresses that all Member States involved were asked to "carry out all activities in a way that fully respects human dignity; maintain the highest standard of ethical conduct, professionalism and human rights; avoid discriminatory treatment… take care throughout all operations of the special needs of vulnerable groups…"

However, it is uncertain that police officers and border guards participating in the operation complied with the requests to "fully respect human dignity" and "avoid discriminatory treatment". Reports submitted to the Map Mos Maiorum! project, set up to track the work of law enforcement agencies at the time of the operation, included:

"National Police stopping people only by their colour of skin (all black)" - Zaragoza, Spain

"2 Police cars standing on Urbanstrasse / Kottbusserdamm. Stopping cars "randomly"; obviously racial profiling. More police cars than usual driving around in the area." - Berlin, Germany

"Police did not controll the several rooms but Check the Passports of People who had Breakfast in the kitchen.they Said they are looking for refugees('People from Afghanistan & syria')" - Plovdiv, Bulgaria

"Special Police at the Central Station. When asked they say they are looking for illegal Refugees with "dark Skincolor"." - Germany

"In Grenoble, at noon, about twenty persons were arrested in the area of the train station, handcuffed and afterwards brought to the police station of Grenoble. There was a number of identity checks based on profiling in the same area, undertaken by about twenty police officers with dogs." - Grenoble train station, France [2]

While the majority of reports submitted to Map Mos Maiorum! were not independently verified, the prevalence of claims of profiling and apparently discriminatory activity is striking.

Media attention

The report also says:

"For unknown reasons, the Joint Operation "MOS MAIORUM" captured the attention of the mass media that labeled it as an operation aiming at arresting migrants even if its aims were to target the criminal networks that facilitate the irregular migration and to monitor/check the most used routes followed by them. These goals were achieved (as a total of 257 facilitators were apprehended)." (p.52)

One of the "unkown reasons" may be that one of the objectives stated in the original proposal was to "apprehend irregular migrants and gather relevant information for intelligence and investigative purposes".

The final report continues:

"The experience of all the police officers from the participating countries, the deep knowledge of the modus operandi used by irregular migrants and of the mains routes followed by criminal networks to transport people from one country to another permitted to intercept a huge number of migrants and apprehend a total of 257 facilitators." (p.52)

Looking for answers

Meanwhile, two MEPs have used an open letter to critcise the "buck passing of responsibilities" over the operation, after being told by the Council of the EU that they should submit questions to the Italian government.

Mos Maiorum was launched in October by the Italian Presidency of the Council in "the tradition well-established by previous EU Presidency Member States" of coordinating operations targeting irregular migration.

The report is made up of an overview and comments by the Italian Presidency; a lengthy section by Frontex that mainly deals with the situation at at different Member States' borders, in others countries, and at sea prior to Mos Maiorum taking place; and conclusions from both the Presidency and Frontex.

Findings from the operation were presented on 11 December to the Council's Working Party on Frontiers where separate presentations were made by the Italian Presidency and Frontex. [3] The leaked report is dated 22 January.


Italian delegation, 'Final report on Joint Operation "MOS MAIORUM"', 5474/15, 22 January 2015

See also

[1] Final reports on Perkunas; Aphrodite; Hermes
[2] Map Mos Maiorum!, 'Reports'
[3] 'Working Party on Frontiers/Mixed Committee', CM 5307/1/14 REV 1, 9 December 2014

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