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Common policy on illegal immigration
To bring together in a coherent framework the key elements of a common policy on immigration; to set out future measures and forms of cooperation in order to put in place a structured policy to prevent and combat illegal immigration.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament on a common policy on illegal immigration [COM(2001) 672 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
1. At the Tampere European Council in 1999, the Member States undertook to combat illegal immigration at its source in order to manage migrant flows more efficiently in conjunction with the countries of origin and transit (points 22 and 23 of the conclusions). Before that, the Vienna Action Plan had stressed the need to put forward practical proposals for combating illegal immigration more effectively.
Several initiatives have been presented, namely:
- a directive defining facilitation and a decision strengthening the penal framework to prevent facilitation;
- a directive harmonising financial penalties imposed on carriers;
- a Commission Communication on a Community Immigration Policy [COM(2000) 757 final];
- a Commission Communication on a common asylum policy, introducing an open coordination method.
2. When the comprehensive strategy was being prepared, the Commission recalled the importance of meeting the obligations arising from certain international instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Convention on Refugees.
3. The debate on the possibility and ways of implementing a comprehensive plan to combat illegal immigration must take several factors into account, namely:
- the existence of various forms of illegal residence and the specific requirements of potentially vulnerable groups (women, minors, unaccompanied minors etc.);
- the need to intensify cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. In particular, the applicant countries must fully transpose the Schengen acquis. The management of migration flows pre-suppose, among others, that consideration must be given to certain areas falling within the Community external policy;
- the existence of a body of provisions relating to issuing visas, the control of external border controls, trafficking in human beings and illegal employment which must be properly applied. Moreover, in order to contribute to the coherent application of legal measures in matters of judicial cooperation, Member States must adopt common definitions of criminal acts and make provision for appropriate penalties. In 2001 the framework decision instrument was used to tackle trafficking in human beings or to establish the penal framework to prevent facilitation and illegal residence.
4. Visa policy is closely linked to the policy relating to the control of migration flows. Two fundamental acts govern the matter, the Regulation listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas and the Regulation laying down a uniform visa format. In accordance with point 22 of the Tampere conclusions, cooperation must be improved the between services responsible for issuing and checking visas (exchange of information, mutual assistance, training of staff).
5. Here, the Commission is looking into the possibility of creating:
- joint visa posts - possibly in the form of a pilot project;
- network to exchange information relating to visas issued in addition to personal data, photos and copies of travel documents.
Gathering and analysing information
6. In order to have a clear picture of the scale of the phenomenon of illegal immigration in the European Union, Member States must make a comparative analysis of the data which comes from the different countries. Cooperation through Cirefi must be improved.
The Commission proposes:
- to present an action plan to improve the data collection and analysis on asylum and migration;
- to present a proposal to improve the operation of an early warning system for the transmission of information on illegal immigration.
Border control and management
7. In order to strengthen control of the external borders, the Commission proposes:
- to set up a European border guard (exploratory studies are financed by the ODYSSEUS programme;
- to harmonise the training of border guards (pilot projects are financed within the European Police College). However, in the long term, it could be desirable to set up a real European Border Guard School;
- to improve cooperation between administrative resources through the exchange of liaison officers.
8. Funds allocated to the Odysseus programme ran out in the 2001 financial year. The Commission proposes to adopt a Council decision establishing a new programme (called Argo) running from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2006. The new programme will support administrative cooperation and the setting up of an "permanent technical support agency" to ensure coherence and effectiveness of cooperation. This agency could carry out three main tasks:
- collection, storage and information dissemination (information coming from the European Migration Observatory, Early Warning System etc.);
- coordination of administrative cooperation (European Border Guard School, training etc.);
- systems management (SIS, Eurodac) which gather information on migration flows).
9. The Commission proposes to publish a communication on European border management, which will set out its proposals.
An overall approach
10. An overall approach is the best working method to combat illegal immigration. The method makes it possible to consider other fundamental matters such as:
- trafficking in human beings (the Commission will present a proposal for a directive on the granting of a residence permit to victims of trafficking who cooperate in criminal investigations against their exploiters);
- economic exploitation of migrants. Priority should be given to the confiscation of financial gains from criminal activities relating to illegal immigration;
- cooperation with the countries of origin and transit;
- carrier liability;
- readmission and return policy. The Commission will present a Green Paper on the matter during 2002.
In addition, the Commission emphasises that illegal immigration is often linked to organised crime networks which operate at international level. Here, it would be very useful to harmonise the provisions relating to what constitutes a crime and to the penalties to be applied.
11. The above considerations bring the Commission to study the role of other bodies such as Europol (see Article 30 of the EU Treaty).
12. The Commission invites the Council to prepare an action plan listing priority measures.
4) IMPLEMENTING MEASURES
During 2002, the Commission will present:
- a Green Paper on Community return policy;
- a communication on European border management
- a study paper on the development of a European visa identification system.