EU agencies advise increased confiscation and extraction of asylum seekers‘ mobile phones and now provide a manual on how to do so. Apps to encrypt or disguise locations are disliked in the report as „countermeasures“ to surveillance.
Often the mobile phones they carry are the only connection between refugees and their relatives and friends in their country of origin or elsewhere. They contain contacts, personal communication as well as photos and videos as a memory of the home countries. Only within the European Union is it possible to apply for asylum in its member states. Therefore, the phones are also an indispensable aid for navigating to receiving countries and finding out about conditions and support there.
Asylum seekers‘ mobile phones are also of increasing interest to authorities. As punishment for irregular entry, border guards in Greece and Croatia, and most recently at the EU’s external border with Belarus, destroy them before abandoning their owners at sea or forcibly push them back. Police forces, on the other hand, confiscate the phones in order to gain information about routes used and people helping to flee. „Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally“ weiterlesen
Companies such as TikTok and Facebook are to step up deletions of internet content if it could encourage the entry of irregular migrants. Calls for this came from the British Criminal Investigation Department. A department for „removal orders“ has also been set up at Europol along the same lines.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Saturday called on social media providers to remove posts if they „glorify“ refugee crossings. In a letter to several companies, Patel was responding to a video posted on TikTok that went viral. It showed a group of men crossing the English Channel in an inflatable boat.
According to Patel, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter should also delete „totally unacceptable clips“ if they promote „deadly crossings“. Posts from „people smugglers“, for example, had been used by the platforms to promote their services. Immigration Minister Chris Philp had already spoken to representatives of the largest internet companies earlier this year and called for ads promoting the crossings to be removed. „Britain and Europol: Social media to remove posts by refugees“ weiterlesen
Customs authorities are seen as „gatekeepers of EU borders for the flow of goods“. They increasingly rely on „risk analysis“ and new information systems. Now the EU customs cooperation with police and border authorities will be enhanced.
Since 1968, the European Economic Community has been a Customs Union for industrial products, and from 1970 for agricultural products as well. All customs formalities at the internal borders of the member states have been dropped. Even the level of customs duties at the external borders, on which all countries had previously decided on their own responsibility, has since been regulated by a common customs tariff.
The framework for today’s EU customs union is the Union Customs Code (CCC) adopted in 1992. It provides uniform rules for customs tariffs on imports from outside the EU. The European Commission constantly proposes updated customs regulations and monitors their implementation. The Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD) in Brussels has responsibility for this. It also operates the tariff system (TARIC3), which displays the current rates.
Customs duties are generally paid where the goods first arrive. The revenue generated is considered the EU’s „traditional own resources“ and covers around 14 percent of its total budget. The member states retain 20 percent of this amount for expenses incurred by their customs authorities and their control activities. In 2016, for example, the EU collected around 25 billion euros in customs duties, leaving 20 billion after deduction of national expenditure. In the last three years, around four billion euros of the total revenue came from Germany. „Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one““ weiterlesen
Although the Lisbon Treaty excludes intelligence cooperation, European domestic services cooperate with Europol and a Situation Centre in Brussels. Next week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss extending this questionable practice.
The European Union intends to further intensify cooperation with the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG). At the forthcoming meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Brussels, the group will once again present a report on cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Afterwards, an „exchange of ideas“ is planned. Because two non-EU states are also organised in the CTG, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will take place in the so-called Schengen format with Switzerland and Norway.
The secret services group has been regularly invited to the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers for the past four years. Its last report took place at the joint meeting in June. Topics included returning combatants from countries such as Syria and Iraq and the need to decrypt telecommunications. The CTG also reported plans to extend its tasks, currently limited to Islamist terrorism, to other areas. „Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services“ weiterlesen
To combat terrorism, the EU police agency reports Internet content to providers for removal. These finds are not necessarily punishable. Now the Internet Referral Unit at Europol is to take stronger action against „smuggling networks“.
The police agency Europol is to have more Internet content on „migrant smuggling“ deleted. This is the conclusion of a paper on „Enhancing the response to migrant smuggling networks“ passed by the interior and justice ministers of the European Union last week.
The document is based on Council conclusions of 18 October 2018 calling for more investigations and prosecution of such activities at both national and EU level. However, the „operational set of measures“ now adopted does not have the force of law. Instead, it gathers declarations of intent for operational measures to strengthen existing instruments and create „synergies“. „Europol to „disrupt smuggling networks‘ online communications““ weiterlesen
The EU plans to strengthen the linkages between its internal and external security structures. In future, military information will increasingly be used in combating terrorism and organised crime. Cooperation is being tested first in the field of migration.
The European Union is planning the establishment of „Crime Information Cells“ (CIC) for the exchange of data between the police, military and secret services. The intention of the players involved is to reinforce the „external dimension of internal security“. The “Crime Information Cells” would strengthen linkages between civil and military EU missions. This would apply to Common Security and Defence Policy missions (CSDP) and the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), which fall within the remit of the European External Action Service or European Commission. „Military intelligence for Europol“ weiterlesen
According to the EU police agency, in the past year 17,459 people operated as “human traffickers”. In the majority of cases, refugees and their facilitators communicate using Facebook or Telegram. Seizing of electronic evidence is thus to take on a greater role in investigations.
Last year, the EU police agency Europol received reports of 1,150 social media accounts apparently used by refugees to facilitate their entry into or travel through the European Union. This information is based on figures (PDF) published by the European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC) at Europol for 2016. The number of incriminated accounts in 2015 was just 148.
The report does not differentiate between humanitarian assistance for refugees and commercial offers. It is also unclear how many of the accounts were reported to the online providers to be removed. According to Europol, the rate of compliance with requests for deletion among companies was around 90 percent. „“E-smuggling”: Europol steps up efforts against online-assisted migrant crossings“ weiterlesen
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