30 January 2015

More than 19,000 immigrants, including over 5,000 Syrian nationals, were apprehended during the Joint Operation ‘Mos Maiorum’, according to a leaked copy of the final report.

The main nationalities intercepted during the operation were Syrians (5,088), Afghans (1,466), Kosovo-Serbians (1,196), Eritreans (1,116), Somalis (641) and Albanians (587). 11,046 people applied for asylum “during or after their interception”. 457 people who encountered the authorities were in possession of documentation attesting that they had already applied for international protection.

257 facilitators were apprehended during the operation, which took place over two weeks in October 2014.

The report concludes that the crises in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are having “a heavy impact on the dimension and composition of the irregular migratory flow on the Eastern Mediterranean land and sea routes and also affect the Central Mediterranean Sea route and Hungary”. According to the report’s forecast, it is very likely that higher numbers of people fleeing Iraq might claim asylum at European airports.

According to the conclusions made by the Frontex Risk Analysis Unit, the implementation of operation Aspida (Shield) in Greece in August 2012 and the Special Police Operation by the Bulgarian authorities at the beginning of November 2013, resulted in a sharp decrease in the number of irregular migrant apprehensions at the Greek and Bulgarian land borders with Turkey during 2013 and 2014; and “caused a clear displacement effect of irregular migration flows from the land border to the Greek–Turkish sea border during 2014”

The report concludes that the objectives of the operation were “largely achieved”, as the participation was extensive, involving 27 European countries, and “the experience of all the police officers from the participating countries, the deep knowledge of the modus operandi used by irregular migrants and of the main routes followed by criminal networks to transport people from one country to another permitted to intercept a huge number of migrants and apprehend a total of 257 facilitators”. 

The operation was criticised by human rights groups and warning signs were displayed in different European cities. Lisa Hager, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Ministry of the Interior, told Al Jazeera that the handling of migrants who have no legal right to stay in the country would be determined by authorities on an individual basis.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 30 January 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.