Tag Archives: Europol

EP Study on Implementation of EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Impact on Frontex, Europol, and EASO

The European Parliament Policy Dept. C has released a study requested by the LIBE Committee entitled: “Implementation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its Impact on EU Home Affairs Agencies: Frontex, Europol and the European Asylum Support Office.”  The study is authored by Prof. Elspeth Guild, Dr. Sergio Carrera, Mr Leonhard den Hertog, and Ms Joanna Parkin.  The study will be presented in the 3 October 2011 LIBE meeting.

Abstract:  “This study sets out to examine the impact and implementation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights with respect to three EU Home Affairs agencies: Frontex, Europol and EASO. It assesses the relevance of the EU Charter when evaluating the mandates, legal competences and practices of these agencies, particularly in the fields of external border control and the management of migration.  After identifying specific fundamental rights guaranteed in the EU Charter that are potentially put at risk by the actions of these three agencies, and judicial obstacles that prevent individuals from obtaining effective legal remedies in cases of alleged fundamental rights violations, we present a set of policy recommendations for the European and national parliaments.”

Excerpts from the 100+ page study:


  • EU home affairs agencies have confirmed themselves as distinct forms of EU regulatory agency. Their scope of action and tasks are not fully predetermined and defined in their founding regulations, at times allowing for the flexible accommodation, and sometimes extension, of their competences to new domains on an ad hoc basis. The three agencies have been granted important operational tasks that go beyond mere ‘regulatory activities’. Yet their dominant framing as depoliticised ‘coordinators’ or ‘facilitators’ of Member State actions has increased their relative autonomy, in some cases preventing a proper democratic scrutiny of the nature and impact of their activities and evading questions of accountability, responsibility and liability in cases of alleged unlawful actions, including potential fundamental rights breaches and risks. These observations are particularly pronounced in the cases of Frontex and Europol. It remains to be seen the extent to which the functioning and activities of EASO will follow a similar pattern.
  • Certain activities performed by Frontex, Europol and EASO as foreseen in their legal remits or developed through informal (de facto) practices present a sensitive relationship with specific fundamental rights provisions foreseen in the EU Charter. This is particularly relevant as regards three categories of actions common to each agency: 1) operational activities, 2) the exchange and processing of information and, in the case of Frontex and Europol, personal data (and the subsequent uses of this information) and 3) relations, cooperation (including so-called ‘capacity building’) and exchange of information with third countries through working arrangements and ‘soft law’. Inter-agency cooperation between Frontex, Europol and potentially in the future EASO, further magnifies the scope, and opens up new venues for, breaches of fundamental rights.
  • The relationship between Frontex, Europol (and to some extent) EASO and fundamental rights is further strained by their ‘home affairs focus’ and the legacy of cross-pillarisation which affects their policies, practices and political ambitions. A conflation of irregular migration with ‘insecurity’ and ‘threat’ legitimises the adoption of coercive policies which, together with a culture of secrecy and lack of transparency, exacerbates the vulnerable status of individuals targeted by the actions of these agencies.
  • There is a profound ‘knowledge gap’ concerning the added value, nature and impact of the activities by Frontex, Europol and EASO on the ground, as well as their full compatibility or coherency with EU internal and external policy priorities and legal frameworks. This report reveals a severe lack of information and monitoring of their actions, especially those of an ‘operational’ nature, which lead to legal uncertainties and accountability gaps that put the agencies at odds with the EU Charter and general rule-of-law principles of the European legal regime.
  • Finally, there is an anachronistic relationship between the overly-politicised nature of some of these EU home affairs agencies as a result of pressures applied by certain EU Member States and the European institutions to demonstrate the practical application of ‘the principle of solidarity’ and ‘mutual trust-based cooperation’ at EU level, and their weak democratic and public accountability. It is paradoxical that, despite the political drivers which steer the activities of EU Home Affairs agencies, their framing as ‘technical’ rather than political actors prevents a full and plural debate and accountability of their actions.


Recommendation 1: A new ‘model of agency-building’ should be ensured and mainstreamed across current and future EU Home Affairs agencies. The model should act as a ‘standard setter’ against which the European Parliament and national parliaments can evaluate and scrutinise the performance and functioning of agencies, while still respecting agencies’ specific characteristics. Given the dynamic evolution of EU Home Affairs agencies, the model could be taken into account if and when the legal mandates of the agencies are opened for re-negotiation. The components and features of this model should include:

  • A more direct involvement of the European Parliament in the appointment of agency Executive Directors by requiring a binding approval from the Parliament for selected candidates.
  • A stronger representation of the European Commission on the Management Boards of agencies (a minimum of 5 Commission representatives, increased weighting of their votes and the granting of veto rights for certain fundamental rights sensitive issues.)
  • Advisory boards or ‘consultative forums’ should be established in all EU Home Affairs agencies as an integral part of their governance structure.
  • Time limits on the confidential status of documents pertaining to agency activities, which oblige the automatic release of such documents to the public within a set time frame should be put in place to promote transparency and public accountability.
  • Institutional structures for individuals to access effective legal remedies in cases of fundamental rights violations should be revised and developed.
  • Codes of conduct and comprehensive training in fundamental rights for all staff involved in agency activities, particularly operational actions, should be streamlined across all Home Affairs agencies.
  • Mechanisms to strengthen compliance with fundamental rights obligations on the ground should be included in the legal mandates of EU Home Affairs agencies: fundamental rights strategies and implementation plans, an in-house fundamental rights officer and independent monitor responsible for initiating disciplinary measures in case of misconduct.
  • To support internal accountability an independent Board of Appeals could be established composed of independent lawyers. Any challenged actions should be frozen while under consideration by the Board of Appeals.
  • EU Home Affairs agencies should have the competence to suspend or terminate activities if violations of fundamental rights occur in the course of those activities.
  • Clear legal definitions should be provided for key concepts related to agency tasks; agency actions should not exceed their legal remits and competences.
  • Comprehensive provisions on data protection should be integral to the legal mandates of EU Home Affairs agencies accompanied by independent supervisory bodies empowered to issue binding opinions.

Recommendation 2: The Inter-Institutional Working Group (IIWG) charged with identifying rules to support a global framework for regulatory agencies should explicitly recognise the fundamental rights-related accountability gaps identified by this report in the activities of EU Home Affairs agencies and take these into account it its final declaration.

Recommendation 3: A closer democratic scrutiny of agencies functioning, planning and work should be ensured through the creation of a permanent inter-parliamentary body or committee dealing specifically with regulatory agencies. The body should be run by the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee and include representatives from the corresponding committees of national parliaments.

Recommendation 4: In order to improve access to justice and effective remedies for individuals regardless of their nationality and/or location, subject to actions by EU Home Affairs agencies, a new branch of the Court of Justice should be established – an Agencies Tribunal – following the same format as the EU Civil Service Tribunal. This body would deal with admissibility claims and complaints of a legal and administrative nature against the agencies and national authorities participating in agencies’ operations and activities.

Recommendation 5: the Commission should have the competence to freeze Agency activities in cases of actual, suspected or imminent breaches of fundamental rights, while the legality of the case is being examined in detail. For such an ex ante procedure to be fully effective, careful attention should be paid to ensuring its overall objectivity, impartiality and democratic accountability. The procedure would be activated by the European Commission (on its own initiative or that of the European Parliament) on the basis of evidence provided by impartial actors such as the EU Agency on Fundamental Rights (FRA) or a new external network of independent and interdisciplinary experts/academics working in close cooperation with civil society organisations based in the different member states.

Recommendation 6: A new piece of secondary law should be adopted specifying the access to rights and to justice by third country nationals subject to new border and migration controls (including those taking place ‘extraterritorially’). The tasks and competences of the EU Home Affairs agencies call for more legal certainty. Their remits and activities and allocation of responsibilities should be clearly defined in law. Any experimental governance activities should be avoided in order to ensure respect for the principles of legal certainty and accountability.

Recommendation 7: Particular attention should be paid to the practical implementation of EASO’s mandate, given the particularly sensitive nature of some of the agency’s tasks from a fundamental rights viewpoint. Guaranteeing the right to asylum envisaged in Article 18 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights should constitute an explicit priority for EASO and the agency’s work should be focused first and foremost around this objective.

Recommendation 8: The fundamental rights sensitivities of Europol’s work and safeguards should be taken into account when Europol’s mandate is re-opened for negotiation in 2013. DG Justice should play an active role during the preparation of the Commission’s proposal for a Europol Regulation to conduct a fundamental rights proofreading of the new legislation. Moreover, the European Parliament should ensure that the new ‘model of agency-building’ proposed in Recommendation 1 of this report would be mainstreamed to Europol to the largest extent.

Recommendation 9: The European Parliament should call upon Frontex to no longer conduct any joint operation in the maritime territory of third states, as the consistency of this practice is not only questionable with respect to the rule of law principles of legal certainty and accountability, but it is also at odds with fundamental rights foreseen in the EU Charter.”

Click here for Study.

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Europol 2011 Organised Crime Threat Assessment – Illegal Immigration and THB

Europol just issued its 2011 Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) (OCTA_2011-1).  The report contains Europol’s assessments regarding “current and expected trends in organised crime affecting the European Union.”  Among the topics discussed are the facilitation of illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings.

The report notes that the increased control of the external borders of the EU, combined with other immigration controls, has resulted in irregular migrants turning to organised crime groups to facilitate their entry to the EU.  The report notes that increased enforcement activities which successfully reduce illegal immigration in certain areas may result in substantial increases in illegal immigration in other areas.

The report indicates that organised criminal groups are exploiting and will continue to exploit the social and political unrest in North Africa and that organised crime groups are responsible for facilitating the movement of the thousands of Tunisians who have entered Italy.

The report notes that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone “may yield increased illicit traffic through these countries and the possible displacement of illegal immigration flows from the Turkish-Greek border.”

Excerpts from the 38 page report pertaining to the facilitation of illegal immigration:

“[I]ncreasing control of external borders, the introduction of higher quality travel documents and other protective measures implemented by destination countries are making illegal immigration more difficult for individual migrants, forcing them to seek the services of organised crime groups.

International agreements and coordinated law enforcement activities have a significant impact on the flows of illegal immigrants along established routes. In 2010, a sharp reduction in the use of sea routes was accompanied by a substantial increase in illegal overland entries, overwhelmingly concentrated on the Turkish-Greek border.

Besides being the natural gateway for immigrants from the Middle East and Asia, Turkey is now the final step towards the EU for migrants with many other origins, including North and West Africans. Its geographical position, the presence of historical smuggling routes and the comparative ease with which entry visas may be obtained have transformed Turkey into the main nexus point for illegal immigrants on their way to Europe.


Legislation aimed at safeguarding certain inalienable individual or social rights is manipulated by organised crime groups with specialist expertise. Political asylum requests, and family reunions following marriages of convenience with EU citizens, are among the most frequently abused procedures. In addition, a prevalent tactic is to exploit loopholes and the lack of harmonisation in current legislation.


Criminal Groups

Organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigrants tend to be structured in loose networks of smaller groups with ethnic or other cultural connections to customers. By the same token, illegal immigrants tend to be recruited by, or approach facilitators from, the same ethnic background. However, few criminal groups have the capacity to manage all stages from source to destination country. The further migrants get from their country of origin, the greater the chance that their facilitators will be of an ethnic origin different from their own. Along the route, small local criminal groups receive and house transiting illegal immigrants, facilitating their passage to the next stage. In the often extended time between stages, transiting migrants are frequently exploited in illicit labour, thus marking a point of contact between illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings (THB).

Organised crime groups in destination countries play a fundamental role in the smuggling of migrants. Criminals, often legitimately resident in the EU, facilitate the last step of the migrants’ journey, in some cases collecting final instalments of transportation fees, and are in an ideal position to profit from newly arrived migrants, sometimes employing forms of exploitation typical of THB.

The most widely reported organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration are of Chinese, Turkish, Albanian, Indian, Iraqi, and Russian origin. Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and some West African groups are among the most capable, managing all successive phases of illegal immigration from source to destination countries. Although these groups may sub-contract part of the transportation or the production of falsified documents, they maintain effective control over the illegal immigrants throughout.

The growing importance of Turkey as a nexus point for migrants is likely to be further exploited by Turkish organised crime groups already extremely skilled in managing routes for illicit commodities and will make the most of their resources and contacts in the EU to maximise profits from this lucrative criminal market….


Criminal hubs

Political and legislative initiatives impact on regional dynamics, resulting in frequent shifts between hubs and preferred nexus points outside the EU.

Migrant flows across the Mediterranean Sea and illicit entries at the Eastern land borders have both significantly decreased. Greece is now the focus for illegal entry to the EU, and while levels of illegal migration connected with seasonal work patterns between Albania and Greece have decreased in the last year, illicit entries of migrants from Turkey have increased by over 500 per cent between 2009 and 2010

The South East criminal hub is therefore under the heaviest pressure. As a result also of its proximity to the Western Balkans, the hub’s centre of gravity for this criminal problem is currently Greece.


The Southern criminal hub is a landing zone for many immigrants who have entered the EU through Greece, and who either remain in Italy or proceed to other MS. Illegal immigrants are often exploited or employed by organised crime groups active in the hub.

Emerging and Future Issues

The social and political unrest pervading North Africa since January 2011 is likely to have a significant impact on the internal security of Southern Europe. By exploiting the present political vacuum and the diminution of police capability to maintain public order and combat criminal activity, organised crime groups are facilitating several thousands of illegal immigrants, mainly of Tunisian origin, in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe. This carries an inherent risk to the internal security of the EU.

The large and growing number of illegal immigrants from countries and regions in which Islamist terrorist groups are active – such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia – raises the possibility that channels for illegal immigration will be used increasingly by those seeking to engage in terrorist activity in the EU.

In the absence of any significant harmonisation of standards with regards to visa issue for a variety of purposes (including settlement for marriage and family reunions) a further increase in the abuse of legitimate migration procedures is likely.

The possible accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Zone will greatly widen the Eastern green and blue borders. This has the potential to release the pressure on the Turkish-Greek border, and lead to increased targeting of Bulgaria and the Black Sea coast by illegal immigrants and their facilitators.

Turkish organised crime groups, currently in a dominant position at the biggest nexus point for migrants, will exploit further opportunities for delivering illegal immigrants to the EU by means of the Black Sea and the flourishing Turkish diaspora in Bulgaria….


… The role of the Western Balkans as a logistical hub will be sustained and may even grow further, while the proposed accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone may yield increased illicit traffic through these countries and the possible displacement of illegal immigration flows from the Turkish-Greek border. In this event, Member States in South East Europe may require additional operational support. In light of the continued prominence throughout the EU of Albanian speaking criminal groups, strategic and operational partnerships with authorities in the Western Balkans will be increasingly important.

Ongoing political instability in countries close to the borders of the EU and transit areas for illicit commodities has the potential to alter trafficking routes and create new illegal migration flows. In countries such as Tunisia and Egypt the process by which serving regimes are replaced may result in power and investment vacuums in both the public and private sectors. Some of these could be filled by those with sufficient resources to exploit the instability for criminal ends, including EU organised crime groups. In politically fragile environments organised crime can also prosper by providing essential services such as transport infrastructure, and food and fuel supply. The effects of illegal immigration as a result of instability in North Africa – already experienced by Italy – are likely to spread if levels of unrest persist or increase. Should living conditions deteriorate in the longer term, the EU is likely to see an increase also in victims of THB from this region….


Click on this link OCTA_2011-1 for OCTA report.

Click here for Europol press release.

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Statement: European Commission’s response to the migratory flows from North Africa

The European Commission released a statement on 8 April summarising its actions.  Excerpts:


Measures addressing the migration flows towards the European Union

Urgent measures already undertaken

The massive displacement of populations from several North African countries has been putting the protection and reception systems of some of the EU Member States, in particular in Italy and Malta, under increasing strain. The European Union has responded to these serious challenges in a rapid and effective manner with the aim of stabilizing the situation.

Frontex has deployed the Joint Operation EPN Hermes Extension 2011 to assist the Italian authorities in managing the influx of migrants from North Africa, most of whom have been arriving on the island of Lampedusa. This mission was launched on 20 February 2011, only four days after receiving the official request from the Italian authorities, a clear signal of solidarity between Member States. FRONTEX stands ready to continue the mission as long as it will be necessary, and to expand it, provided that Member States will make available the necessary staff, vessels and equipment. In view of the above the Commission is launching the necessary procedures for reinforcing the FRONTEX 2011 budget with an additional EUR 30 million.

Europol has also deployed a team of experts to Italy in order to help the national authorities to assist in detecting and preventing possible criminal of trafficking of human beings.

Regarding the financial needs linked with the displacement, the Commission’s four migration-related funds (the External Borders Fund, Return Fund, Refugee Fund and Integration Fund) are available to Member States. For example, Italy, one of the major beneficiaries of these funds, has been allocated €55 million for 2010 and €75 million for 2011. Moreover, the Commission makes available an additional €25 million of emergency funding which can be quickly mobilised under the External Borders Funds and European Refugee Fund.

What measures could be undertaken in the short-term?

Should the inflow of irregular migrants and possible refugees continue, the Commission envisages a number of short-term measures that might be taken.

Reinforcing Frontex

  • 1) The Joint Operation EPN HERMES Extension coordinated by FRONTEX could be considerably strengthened, with additional technical resources made available by Member States, and adequate financial resources.
  • 2) It is essential that FRONTEX is finally given a stronger operational mandate through a revision of its legal basis, which the Commission tabled in February 2010 (IP/10/184)
  • 3) FRONTEX should speed up negotiations to conclude working arrangements with the countries of origin and transit of irregular migration in the Mediterranean in the region (for example, with Egypt, Morocco and Turkey), and receive a mandate to negotiate similar working arrangements with other relevant countries (for instance Tunisia)

Resettlement of third country nationals

The continuous and possible increase in the flow of refugees (e.g. Somalis, Eritreans etc.), in need of international protection, coming from Libyan territory is an issue of major concern. The EU will not only continue to provide humanitarian assistance through its humanitarian office (ECHO), but it is also ready to offer through the European Refugee Fund financial support in view of facilitating the resettlement of persons in need of international protection. Resettlement represents not only a life-saving measure for the refugees concerned, but is also an important responsibility-sharing gesture towards the countries hosting them. Showing solidarity with the countries neighbouring Libya that are under pressure through resettlement can help to maintain ‘protection space’, as well as contributing to dialogue and cooperation on other issues of migration and border management.

The Commission has therefore been encouraging EU Member States to offer resettlement places, in a spirit of responsibility-sharing and in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A meeting was held with Member States on 25 March at which details of the most urgent needs were explained by the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), both of whom are actively engaged on the ground in the region.

The current crisis in the Mediterranean clearly demonstrates how imperative it is that the Council and the European Parliament make an effort to rapidly reach an agreement on the adoption of the Commission’s proposal for the establishment of an EU joint resettlement programme. This proposal would provide a structured basis for annual priority-setting, and linking those priorities with financial incentives, thereby encouraging more Member States to become involved in resettlement activities, and enhancing practical cooperation between Member States to that end.

Solidarity / Temporary Protection Directive

In the event of a massive inflow of persons who are likely to be in need of international protection, the Commission would expect Member States to demonstrate concrete solidarity with each other by directly assisting the States bearing the greatest burden. This could involve the relocation to other Member States of some persons seeking protection, or who have already received an international protection status.

Concrete assistance could likewise be provided by the newly-created European Asylum Support Office, one of whose central tasks is coordination of assistance to Member States whose asylum systems are under exceptional pressure. This could involve the deployment of so-called ‘asylum support teams’ to reinforce the capacities of a State to process asylum claims and to ensure appropriate reception conditions for asylum seekers.

The Commission would also be ready to consider proposing the use of the mechanism foreseen under the 2001 Temporary Protection Directive (2001/55/EC), if the conditions foreseen in the directive are met. Consideration could only be given to taking this step if it is clear that the persons concerned are likely to be in need of international protection, if they cannot be safely returned to their countries-of-origin, and if the numbers of persons arriving who are in need of protection are sufficiently great. Resort to this mechanism would allow for the immediate protection and reception in the territory of EU Member States for persons concerned, as well as offering a “breathing space” for the national asylum systems of the Member States most directly affected.


Click here for full Statement.

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Statement by Commissioner Malmström Regarding Today’s Launch of Operation Hermes

A short statement by the Commissioner regarding Operation Hermes was posted on the EU External Affairs web page today:  “…The mission is part of a broader framework of measures by the European Commission to manage these exceptional migratory flows. Other actions include cooperation with Tunisian authorities, identification of financial emergency envelopes and assistance by the European Police Office (Europol). … As part of the Hermes mission, experts from participating Member States will be deployed along with aerial and naval support to assist the Italian authorities. Human and technical resources could be increased according to future needs.  On the basis of the Operational Plan that was agreed with the Italian authorities, Frontex experts will assist in debriefing and interviewing migrants. Special attention is given to identifying those who may be in need of international protection. Frontex will also give aerial and naval support for border surveillance….”

Click here for full statement.

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Euro-Africa Conference on Illegal Immigration, Human Trafficking, Drug Trafficking, and Terrorism (Napoli, 7-9 February)

The Italian Interior Ministry and the Direzione Centrale dell’Immigrazione e della Polizia delle Frontiere are conducting a three day conference, beginning today, in Napoli, 7-9 February.  In attendance will be top police officials from 45 African countries, 25 EU countries as well as officials from agencies including Interpol, Europol, Frontex and, as observers, representatives of the US FBI and Dept. of Homeland Security.  Among those scheduled to attend are Rodolfo Ronconi, Direttore Centrale dell’Immigrazione e della Polizia delle Frontiere, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald Noble, EUROPOL Director Rob Wainwright, and Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen.

According to a draft agenda for the conference, discussion topics will include:

  • Immigration Group – The African continent as a source and place of transit for migratory flows towards Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.  Internal migration within African. Threat assessment, ongoing bilateral initiatives, multilateral initiatives, and methods of law enforcement;
  • Group on human trafficking and organized crime – Criminal networks involved in smuggling: prevention and law enforcement investigative techniques, with particular reference to flows from Greece and Central Africa to Europe;
  • Drug Trafficking Group – African continent: new narcotrafficking directed towards Europe;
  • Group on Terrorism – Cyberspace as a new platform for radicalization: comparing experiences.

Original Italian:

  • Gruppo Immigrazione – Il  Continente africano quale origine e transito dei flussi migratory diretti in Europa attraverso il Mar Mediterraneo.  I fenomeni migratori interni al Continente africano.  Valutazione della minaccia, iniziative bilaterali, multilaterali e metodologie di contrasto;
  • Gruppo Tratta degli esseri umani e criminalità organizzata sul tema “Le reti criminali coinvolte nel traffico di migranti: tecniche di investigazione preventiva e repressiva, con particolare riferimento ai flussi provenienti dalla Grecia e dal Centro Africa verso l’Europa”;
  • Gruppo Traffico di Stupefacenti sul tema “Il Continente africano: nuovo crocevia del narcotraffico diretto verso l’Europa?”;
  • Gruppo Terrorismo sul tema “Il Cyberspazio quale nuova piattaforma per la radicalizzazione: esperienze a confronto”;

Click here (IT) for short article.

Click here (IT) for draft agenda.

I would love to know more about the substance of the conference – if anyone has any information or documents to share, please do so. ( nfrenzen@law.usc.edu ).


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