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Migrant smuggling tops EU crime priorities - restricted document shows extent of police operations
11.10.17
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"Preventing the arrival of immigrants with no legal rights to the EU is more important, in terms of EU policy priorities among member states, than fighting terrorism and online child pornography.

Erkki Koort, who chairs an internal security group at the European Council, representing member states, told MEPs on Tuesday (10 October) that fighting "the facilitation of illegal migration" involves more EU states than any other crime.

"For the upcoming [EU policy] cycle, the areas with the biggest number of member states participating are first [against] the facilitation of illegal migration," he said.

Human trafficking ranked second, followed by synthetic drugs and then more conventional narcotics like cannabis and cocaine. Koort then listed weapons trafficking and child sexual exploitation as near the bottom of the priorities. Other big ticket issues included value-added tax fraud, which followed child sexual exploitation."

See: Migrant smuggling tops EU crime priorities (EUobserver, link)

The EU policy cycle on serious and organised crime

The EU policy cycle on serious and organised crime was first set up in 2010, having emerged from the Belgian-led 'Project Harmony' aimed at enhancing cross-border police cooperation in the EU. It has become increasingly formalised and better-funded in recent years, with the establishment of an acronym-heavy management system based around Europol and the Council of the EU, in particular the Standing committeee on operational cooperation on internal security (COSI).

The next policy cycle will run from 2018 to 2021. The Council agreed the priorities for that period in May this year in a set of conclusions, amongst which can be found:

"3) To disrupt OCGs who facilitate illegal immigration by providing facilitation services to irregular migrants along the main migratory routes crossing the external border of the EU and within the EU, particularly focussing on those whose methods endanger people’s lives, those offering their services online and making use of document fraud as part of their business model.

This priority will be implemented through one Operational Action Plan. Experiences gained from the Illegal Immigration priority in the previous Policy Cycle should be duly taken into consideration."

See: Council conclusions on setting the EU’s priorities for the fight against organised and serious international crime between 2018 and 2021 (9450/17, 19 May 2017, pdf) and: Council Conclusions on the continuation of the EU Policy Cycle for organised and serious international crime for the period 2018-2021 (7704/17, 28 March 2017, pdf)

For background on the policy cycle and how it is organised see: EU joint police operations target irregular migrants by Chris Jones (Statewatch Journal vol 23 no 3/4, February 2014)

Restricted document shows extent of law enforcement cooperation

Cooperation on the issue of "facilitated illegal immigration" (FII) is already extensive, as can be seen from a restricted 74-page Council report from April this year on the implementation of the Operational Action Plan (OAP) for 2016.

See: EU Policy Cycle - Implementation monitoring: Progress Report OAP 2016 - Facilitation of illegal immigration (6709/17, RESTRICTED, 26 April 2017, pdf)

The report contains details of work undertaken on the following actions:

OA 1.1 Provision of the situational picture of the current trends within the irregular migratory pressure. Europol FP Checkpoint Early Warning Notifications / Frontex risk analysis updates and other strategic intelligence products

OA 2.1 Establishment of a Joint Operational Office (JOO) in Vienna (AT) for the fight against OCGs facilitating illegal immigration into the EU via the south eastern route and the Balkan route

OA 2.2 TranSEEt (Transiting South East Europe): Investigative action targeting organized crime groups operating on the south East/Western Balkan route

OA 2.3 JOT COMPASS II: Action focusing on OCGs facilitating illegal border crossings towards and through Western European countries of the EU internal borders, and consequently on the illegal immigration predominantly transiting from The Central Mediterranean area into EU

OA 2.4 Integrate money laundering and asset recovery techniques on all operational actions where substantial criminal proceeds are suspected

OA 2.5 Dismantling criminal networks facilitating illegal immigrants from Turkey to Greece in order to get to South East and Central Europe.

OA 2.6 Operational Action PEGASUS focused on tackling the facilitated irregular migration within air border domain.

OA 2.7 Tackling human smuggling in the Western Mediterranean.

OA 3.1 ID FRAUD II (Identity Fraud): To identify and disrupt OCGs using document fraud and specifically ID fraud for the purpose of facilitating illegal immigration.

OA 4.1 Marriages of convenience: Share data with Europol of cases where there is suspicion of marriage of convenience with OC involvement

OA 5.1 Network of liaison officers in Libya

OA 5.1 Turkey Organised Immigration Crime Working Group (TOICWG). Development in capability and capacity of Turkey Organised Immigration Crime Working Group

OA 5.2 Joint Operational Team MARE: JOT, as part of the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC), to tackle OCGs active organising ship facilitations in the Mediterranean toward the EU and subsequent secondary movements inside the EU.

OA 5.3 WB 2016: OA focused on Western Balkans Operational Area to be implemented by means by means of selected and fine-tuned Frontex Joint Operations and additionally prepared Joint Action Day.

OA 5.4 Eurosur: Eurosur Fusion Services (EFS) for the sake of detecting, preventing and combating illegal immigration and cross-border crime

OA 5.5 Africa Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC) development: The AFIC is a platform for joint analyses and common knowledge sharing with respect to border security, irregular trans-border movement of people, trans-border criminality.

OA 6.1 Develop and implement Illegal Immigration related training activities for EU law enforcement specialists in order to exchange good working practices

OA 6.2 Training on advanced skills on detection of falsified documents

OA 6.3 Training for Visa Section Staff of EU MS / SAC embassies and consulates in third countries.

OA 6.4 Intelligence gathering capacity building at the borders.

OA 6.5 Regional Forum: Conference for Chief of Police (if necessary, extended to, or followed by Border Police/Criminal Police high rank officers' meeting) on organized crime and migration issues with reference to the Western Balkans/South East European route and to Western/Central/Eastern Mediterranean route

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