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Europe's extra visa checks

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Nadine Nagy: The Latvian EU presidency is spearheading a crackdown on people who overstay their visas. Codenamed "Amberlight 2015", it will intensify border control checks and target people whose visas have run out

While personal data will not be collected, the operation aims to find out why people violate the terms of their visa. Police will also be looking out for forged IDs and documents.

"The activity is taking place at an information-sharing level and does not require the involvement of additional resources, thus there is no need to define the number of police and/or border guards involved. Such information will also not be in the resulting documents," says the EU Latvia presidency.

The exercise is planned for either 1 to 14 April or 18 to 30 April at international airports but may also be extended to sea and land borders. The dates have been chosen to coincide with the Easter holiday break and the expected increase in travel.

“All member states and Schengen associated countries are welcomed to participate in the activity,” notes a confidential EU document leaked on Sunday (22 March) by civil liberties group Statewatch.

The EU's border agency Frontex registered 344,888 detection incidents, in which visas had expired, in 2013.

It is not the first time police across Europe have been dispatched to intercept irregular migrants in a so-called data gathering exercise.


Six other two-week operations were carried out under other EU presidencies, the first being Belgium in October 2010.

The most recent was the so-called Mos Maiorum launched last October by the Italian EU presidency.

At the time, Benedetto Della Vedova, an Italian official speaking on the behalf of the Italian EU presidency told euro-deputies in Strasbourg: “It [Mos Maiorum] is actually the sixth type of this mission.”

But Vedova’s explanation that Mos Maiorum was simply a continuation of other joint operations did not assuage the concerns raised by some deputies.

Critics say the crackdown only adds to the criminal perception and persecution of migrants, many who have fled war-torn Syria and oppressive states like Eritrea. Most entering the EU do so without paper work.

Mos Maiorum saw some 18,000 police officers dispatched throughout train stations, roads and elsewhere in the 26 Schengen border free member states.

It intercepted just under 20,000 irregular migrants, including around 2,700 minors. Most were Syrians.

The stated objective was an intelligence gathering exercise to help break apart criminal organisations behind irregular migrant flows and nab the fake IDs. In the final report, police said they apprehended 257 people, most of them EU nationals, who helped smuggle the migrants into Europe.

Available information suggests another operation, conducted under Lithuania’s EU presidency in the second half of 2013, yielded mixed results.

Codenamed Perkunas, the operation started on 30 September until 13 October, and intercepted 10,459 irregular migrants. Around 18 percent were smuggled, some 68 percent sought international protection, and 577 had false documents.

Despite the large numbers, analysts were unable to determine the final destination or routes followed by more than half of those stopped.

“Consequently, the data available yields only 38,54 percent of the full picture,” notes Perkunas’ final report.

It did draw some other conclusions, noting for instance that most of those apprehended were Syrian nationals (4,800), other top nationals were Eritreans followed by Afghans.

At just under €12,000, Bangladeshi nationals paid the most to get to the EU when compared to other nationalities. Iranians paid the least at €3,799

Twenty-three member states as well as Switzerland and Norway participated in Perkunas. Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden did not.



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