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Sunday, October 2, 2022

European Border Crisis: State of Emergency Declared, Border Controls Reintroduced

The European Schengen Agreement is again under scrutiny after countries have begun implementing border controls, effectively pausing Schengen.

The Schengen Agreement – which enables passport-free movement – can be temporarily paused in emergency situations, which is exactly what Europe is facing right now as a result of the migrant crisis.

More than 500,000 migrants were detected at EU external borders in the first eight months of this year after a fifth consecutive monthly record was registered in August when 156,000 crossed the EU borders. By comparison, in 2014, there were 280,000 detections at EU borders.

The Greek islands again saw the biggest number of detections in August at 88,000, an 11-fold increase compared to the same month last year. Nearly three-quarters of the people arriving from Turkey were Syrians.

The migrants arriving from Turkey speak about increasingly aggressive and cruel smugglers who ignore worsening weather conditions and force migrants on overcrowded rubber boats to squeeze a bigger profit out of every trip.

The heads of INTERPOL and Europol have called for urgent and coordinated action by law enforcement to identify and disrupt the organized crime networks behind the unprecedented levels of people smuggling.

The need for coordinated action at the national, regional and international levels to address this rapidly escalating security issue was a key discussion point during the meeting between INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock and Europol Director Rob Wainwright at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters on September 11.

The two leaders have called on their respective services to urgently organize a summit of senior police officers form source, transit and destination countries.

"As we mark the anniversary of 9/11, an event which completely changed the security landscape, it is more important than ever that governments support law enforcement in implementing a need to share, rather than need to know, philosophy," said Secretary General Stock.

"Criminals who prey on the desperation of those fleeing conflict or poverty are making millions in profits, which can then be used to fuel corruption and fund other forms of serious transnational crime," Stock said.

"We need each of our 190 member countries to play their part in providing the information which could be crucial in bringing these ‘merchants of misery’ to justice," Stock added.

"Europe has been facing numbers of migrants at unprecedented levels. We are all deeply moved by the tragedy of those people and our immediate and urgent task is to curb the organized crime groups which smuggle and distribute migrants across Europe," Wainwright said.

Wainwright said law enforcement services in the member states of the European Union, Europol and INTERPOL are confronted with increasingly sophisticated and unscrupulous criminal syndicates which are becoming harder to combat, more agile, more international and more innovative in their use of new tools such as social media.

"It is of great importance that, in this challenging time, member states intensify their efforts in exchanging the crucial criminal data among themselves and with Europol and INTERPOL. This will enable us to be even more effective in identifying intelligence leads, closing the information gaps and disrupting the organized crime groups involved.

"Now more than ever we understand that security in the European Union is indivisible. Europol stands ready to step up its activities aimed at curbing the organized crime groups dealing with the facilitation of illegal immigration and will exploit all opportunities to join forces with INTERPOL to this end," Wainwright concluded.

In addition to its secure global police communications network which enables the real-time exchange of vital policing information across 190 countries, INTERPOL’s range of databases including for foreign terrorist fighters, wanted persons, fingerprints, stolen and lost travel documents, stolen vessels and maritime piracy are also vital tools in identifying potential links between organized crime networks behind people smuggling and other crimes.

Europol has developed tailored operational and analytical tools to combat organized crime involved in facilitating the illegal immigration which can be used in ongoing law enforcement operations. Europol intelligence databases store data from 500 agencies across Europe which allow for a quick identification of connections between organized crime groups and exchange of crucial operational data between involved law enforcement services.

A large number of the migrants arriving in Greece make their way towards Hungary, where the number of detections at its border with Serbia increased 20-fold to more than 52,000 in August, bringing the number so far this year to more than 155,000.

Hungary declared a state of emergency in two southern counties on September 15 as tough new laws to stop migrants enteringillegally came into force.

Hungarian police said they had arrested 60 people accused of trying to breach a razor-wire fence on the border with Serbia. The state of emergency gives police extra powers and would allow troop deployments if parliament approves.

Germany has reintroduced border controls at its border with Austria, which is the route taken by the majority of migrants in Hungary with Germany being the end goal in their migration. Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands have also said they will tighten border controls. Germany (which has taken the lion’s share of migrants in recent weeks) and Austria are calling for a special meeting of EU leaders next week to discuss the crisis.

As previously reported by Homeland Security Today, the Schengen Agreement was created for a different world. Much has been invested in Schengen and the EU will not give up on it lightly. Many are proud of the free movement within the continent, not to mention the financial and political ramifications of scrapping the agreement.

But this is not the time for officials to put their heads in the sand — the border crisis needs to be tackled now, and the same urgency should also be applied to the causes of the crisis. The human trafficking networks must be shut down and Europe and its allies cannot simply shut their doors to those seeking refuge from catastrophic conditions and hope that the problem will go away.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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