European Commission
EU Agency for Asylum begins its work with reinforced mandate

On 19 January 2022 the new European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) began operating with a stronger mandate, a key aspect of the Commission’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum. Building upon the work of its predecessor the European Asylum Support Office, the Commission hopes that the new agency will help to harmonise migration policy across Europe, leading to more uniform, high-quality decision making and also fostering more efficient asylum systems in each EU Member State. A reserve team of 500 experts, including case handlers, interpreters or reception specialists will be available to Member States on an ad-hoc basis, helping those with a problematically high caseload. In addition to the EUAA, other actions under the New Pact are already being implemented, including deepening EU coordination on returns, tackling the external (extra-EU) aspects of migration policy, and deployment of EU Border and Coast Guard standing corps (Frontex). (link)

Commission officials denounce Latvia, Lithuania and Poland’s border control measures
Senior EU officials have warned that Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are using illegal “pushback” methods to prevent migrants from Belarus from entering their countries, thereby denying their right to apply for asylum. “Pushback” refers to a situation where migrants are forcibly expelled across an international border, and the practice is illegal under EU and international humanitarian law. Addressing the European Parliament, the Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson stated that “Even in this dangerous and difficult situation that these three (EU) members states are in, they have to have legislation where pushbacks are not accepted and not legalized.” Commissioner Johansson did not comment when asked why the Commission is not imposing retributive action against the three countries. Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said pushbacks have continued to occur at Belarus’ EU borders for many months, and the agency is being prevented from getting to crisis zones despite repeated requests for access. (link)

Country News:

·        Belgium: Violent COVID-19 lockdown protests escalated in Brussels on 23 January, and protestors ultimately vandalized the offices of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the diplomatic department of the European Union. (link)

·        Czech Republic and Spain: Spanish police have arrested a serial fraudster who was on the run after having been convicted. The man was found in a farm in Almeria and arrested. (link)

·        France: Six French police officers are facing a disciplinary hearing accused of “administrative failings” in a gruesome case of femicide in Bordeaux. (link)

·        Germany: German police have been authorized to crack down on COVID-19 lockdown protestors which may be wearing badges resembling the yellow “Judenstern” (Jews’ star) and other symbols associated with the Third Reich. (link)

·        Italy: In Palermo and Taranto, Italian police have arrested four alleged members of the Nigerian Mafia known as the “Black Axe” group, for sex trafficking offences. (link)

·        Malta: The Maltese Police have searched the residence of former Maltese PM Joseph Muscat, as part of an anti-corruption probe. (link)

·        Netherlands: Dutch police have found a stowaway in the wheel section of a freight plane arriving from Africa, who remarkably was alive and well. (link)

·        Poland: Poland has begun building a €353m metal wall on its border with Belarus, to prevent migrants being illegally pushed into Poland by Belarus in what the EU calls a “hybrid attack.” (link)

·        Spain: A former senior member of the Spanish National Police Corps has claimed the 2017 terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils were orchestrated by the country’s secret service, in a bid to destabilise Catalonia before its independence referendum. (link)

·        UK: The Metropolitan Police have begun an investigation into a series of parties which were allegedly held during pandemic lockdowns in the Downing Street offices of Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. (link)

Other news
French Council Presidency outlines priorities for its sixth month term
On 3 January, French President Emmanuel Macron presented the priorities of the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, alongside the publication of a 76-page programme. With elections coming up in April, France’s Council Presidency comes at a critical time. The Presidency falls to an EU Member State only every 13 years and is a significant opportunity to influence the EU’s agenda. Regarding policing and security policy (page 34 of the document), the Presidency commits to strengthening police cooperation through the revision of the Europol mandate, and also by making European information systems more interoperable. The Presidency also commits to accelerating discussions at EU level on the Prüm decisions, the Directive on information exchange and the recommendation for a police cooperation code. To recall, the Commission had previously released three legislative proposals at the end of 2021, in the context of operational police cooperation, of information exchange between Member State law enforcement authorities, and of automated data exchange for police cooperation (“Prüm II”). Additional priorities highlighted by the Presidency include tackling online child sexual abuse, drug trafficking, and radicalization. (link)

COVID-19 infections severely impacting Sweden’s police force
A continuous surge in COVID-19 infections attributable to the more transmissible Omicron variant has had a major impact on the Swedish Police, according to the Swedish Police Union. “The situation is strained in some precincts and we are on the verge of not being able to keep the business running,” Patrik Danielsson, Health and Safety representative at the Swedish Police Union, told Radio Sweden. As many as 10% of the Swedish Police force, some 3000 individuals, were on sick leave as of 20 January.  (link)

Look Ahead :

–       31 January: The Council of the EU’s Working Party on External Aspects of Asylum and Migration meets to discuss the EU’s migration relationship with Pakistan.

–       7 February: The Council of the EU’s Working Party on Law Enforcement meets.

–       14 February: The EMPL (Employment) committee of the European Parliament meets to discuss the protection of works from the risks relating to carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxins at work.

–       16 February: CEPOL holds a webinar on the 2022 CEPOL Exchange Programme to clarify any questions in relation to the application process. The registration link is available here.

–       16 February: The Council of the EU’s Working Party on Law Enforcement meets.

–       23 February: The Council of the EU’s Working Party on Law Enforcement meets.

 

 

 

 

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