International investigative bureau in Vienna to combat “migrant smuggling”

On 4 May 2016, the Austrian Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Sobotka opened the “Joint Operational Office against Human Smuggling Networks” (JOO) in Vienna. In a statement, the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior stated that the institution was an “international investigative bureau against human smuggling”. The centre has an initial complement of 38 staff members, Europol intends to second additional personnel. It is intended to be a point of contact for investigations of authorities also from the migrants’ countries of origin.

According to the German Ministry of Interior, the JOO is formed within the Sub-Department “Trafficking in Human Beings and Human Smuggling” at the Federal Criminal Police Office in Vienna. Authorities from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, the UK, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia and Slovakia, as well as Europol and Frontex, support the JOO as “members”. Legal basis of the JOO is the Police Cooperation Convention for South East Europe (PCC-SEE) with police personnel from the Balkan region and EU countries. International investigative bureau in Vienna to combat “migrant smuggling” weiterlesen

New Europol regulation due to enter into force from May 2017 – oversight is likely to remain superficial

On 1 May 2017, the new regulation on Europol will enter into force. The compromise agreed on in the framework of the trilogue procedure lays down new more detailed provisions on oversight of the activities of Europol by the European Parliament. Article 88 (2), sentence 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides for the national Parliaments to be more closely involved with this scrutiny. Article 51 of the regulation mentions the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG). The European Parliament had lobbied hard during the trilogue procedure to achieve this. The Group is to consist of Members of the European Parliament and the national Parliaments. Yet it is unclear how this will work in practice. New Europol regulation due to enter into force from May 2017 – oversight is likely to remain superficial weiterlesen

New FRONTEX agency: satellite reconnaissance and drones over the Mediterranean

The EU is taking its maritime surveillance to a new level. The three agencies responsible for coastal and maritime surveillance are to be merged. 81 million euros has been earmarked for unmanned aerial vehicles alone, with hundreds of millions also being spent on the necessary satellite capabilities. The money is flowing into the coffers of arms companies.

The FRONTEX border agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) have signed a new cooperation agreement. Its aims include improving border surveillance, intercepting vessels suspected of “engaging in criminal activities” and combating illegal fishing. The agreement was signed on the margins of a conference at which the agencies discussed new forms of maritime surveillance, information sharing and capacity building. New FRONTEX agency: satellite reconnaissance and drones over the Mediterranean weiterlesen

Europol to cooperate with new European intelligence service center

European intelligence services are establishing a „Counter Terrorism Centre“ in the Dutch city The Hague. The centre belongs to the „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG) that was founded by the so called Club of Berne in 2001. It consists of domestic intelligence services from all European member states plus Norway and Switzerland. France and Italy are participating with two different authorities. The CTG members are now invoked to send liason officers towards the Dutch centre. Which security services will participate in the „Counter Terrorism Centre“ is yet unclear. Reportedly to German media „not even half of the countries want to join“. Europol to cooperate with new European intelligence service center weiterlesen

“Terrorist material” online: further successful removal requests by Europol

Europol’s Internet Referral Unit is more active than had previously been known. The partnership with the internet industry is now to be expanded further, with the aim of establishing a Joint Referral Platform for the police and private companies and developing “counter-narratives”.

A document posted online by the British civil-rights organisation Statewatch provides new information about the Internet Referral Unit set up at Europol in The Hague. It states that the unit has already found, analysed and assessed 7364 pieces of suspected terrorist and extremist material online. In 6399 cases, Europol asked internet companies to remove the content, and was successful in 95% of cases. Much lower figures had been given by the European Commission in a communication five weeks ago. The content was found across at least 45 different platforms, according to the communication. “Terrorist material” online: further successful removal requests by Europol weiterlesen

EU adds facial recognition capabilities to police databases

Last week, the European Commission published its proposal to recast the EURODAC Regulation, which includes plans for longer storage periods, an expansion of data categories and comparison capabilities, and mandatory fingerprinting and photographing. To date, EURODAC has been used for comparison of fingerprints.

Now the system is also to store facial images and facial recognition capabilities are to be added. There are two different search options. When checks are taking place, people’s images can be compared with available personal data to verify their identity (known as 1:1 matching). However, it is also possible to search for a face in the entire database (1:n). EU adds facial recognition capabilities to police databases weiterlesen