Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Pilot project blurs military and police lines on migration

  • Migrants rescued by the EU's naval operation may have their details sent to the police (Photo: EEAS)

Migrants rescued at sea under an EU naval military operation will have their information expedited to the EU's police agency Europol.

The plan is part of a pilot project set for launch in the coming weeks, marking a further shift towards the blurring of lines between law enforcement and the military.

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EU interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday (8 March) "expressed support for the principle" of the project amid broader questions of the legal implications of shuffling data collected by the navy directly to the police.

The military is generally meant to fight the enemies of the state, while police protect the people of that state. The blurring of the two raises important legal and ethical questions.

To get around it, a small team of agents, plucked from the EU agencies like Frontex and Europol, will be dispatched onto the EU's naval flagship Operation Sophia.

"The pilot project crime information cell will be a hub within operation Sophia to optimise the use of information collected by Sophia for crime prevention, investigation, and prosecution," EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters.

He said one of the key objectives is to ease two-way information exchange for both analytical and operational use by both Europol and Frontex.

The team will start off small, with only one or two agents from the agencies and another from Sophia, before expanding to around 10.

The cell will not have the legal authority to transmit data on any terrorist related intelligence given restrictions in Operation Sophia's mandate.

Instead, it will tackle migrant smuggling, trafficking of firearms, and oil smuggling from Libya.

Under the current system, any information collected by Sophia is said to take at least a week to get into the hands of Europol due to legal wrangles and data protection rules.

The crime information cell is tasked to make such transfers much more immediate.

Analysis

Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?

The past 18 months have seen the EU's border agency Frontex morph into a law enforcement as it steps up efforts to crack down on crime and terrorism.

Opinion

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Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says the EU has almost solved the migration issue - but a large part of this 'solution' has been a deliberate strategy to push the problems out of sight, outsourcing stopping migration to African states.

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Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

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