A leaked internal document revealed details of dozens of operational plans to crack down on migrant smugglers next year, including a target of more than 1,400 arrests – mostly under the auspices of EU border agency Frontex .
Some are run by individual Member States, others by EU agencies like Frontex and the Europol Police Agency.
The plans come at a time when humanitarian volunteers face an increasing risk of possible prison sentences and fines for helping migrants. It also comes amid revelations by Greek intelligence services monitoring a journalist reporting on refugees.
Some of the plans are accompanied by annual key performance indicators, including number of arrests, seizure of fraudulent documents, intelligence gathering reports and investigations initiated.
It fuels a wider campaign to prevent people seeking protection from entering the EU, as member states remain deadlocked in their efforts to revise the EU’s internal asylum rules and is part of an initiative focused on the security of EU Member States known as the Impact.
Its main strategic objective is to create a “criminal intelligence image” followed by everything from money laundering to victim assistance.
The image of intelligence covers criminal networks as well as expressions loosely referred to as “the main parallel facilitators”.
It includes rules not yet adopted allowing Frontex “to support operational activities by identifying suspects of cross-border crime, namely smuggling of migrants (and others)”.
This also implies that Europol works with countries where it has operational and strategic agreements, in particular the Balkans but also China, Russia and Turkey.
Austria, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain and the UK, a non-EU state, are also leading operations individual, with the support of other countries.
Austria is tasked with arresting 200 “smuggler facilitators” as part of its operation in the Western Balkans.
Greece wants to establish whether criminal acts “can be committed in the future”, and will focus on migration logistics hubs such as transport and accommodation.
He plans to make at least five arrests next year.
Germany runs three operations covering the Western Balkans, document forgery detection and visa fraud intelligence gathering.
He wants to make at least 200 arrests.
Italy wants to break down organized criminal groups along the “Central Mediterranean Route” by improving “real-time information exchange” and intensifying collaboration with Libya and Tunisia. Number of arrests: six.
France is at the head of four operations involving the “dark web”, document fraud, internal migrant movements and inflatable boats crossing the Channel.
Spain has carried out two operations to stem migratory pressure on the western Mediterranean route and cut off smuggling air routes from Africa, Asia and South America. Number of arrests: 30.
Europol is carrying out three operations aimed at improving the image of intelligence on smuggled migratory routes, resulting in around 100 “intelligence products”.
Poland will work to disrupt smuggling from Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.
Portugal will crack down on fictitious marriages as part of “Operation Bride” and hopes to identify or disrupt at least five organized criminal groups.
Frontex is leading eight operations dealing with illegal border crossings, surveillance in the Balkans, border controls, document fraud, training, intelligence gathering at the external borders and awareness raising.
The operations include apprehending at least 50 “suspected facilitators” and making some 1,000 arrests.
Meanwhile, the UK and Germany will work to disrupt supply chains for small boats and engines used by migrants to cross the Channel.