Malta participates in Mos Maiorum, four irregular migrants apprehended

Malta taking part in EU-wide police hunt for irregular migrants and visa overstayers

Malta is one of the EU member states taking part in the controversial Mos Maiorum operation to apprehend irregular migrants without any documentation across the European Union.

In its first day of operation on Sunday, four foreign nationals were found staying in Malta without a permit, the home affairs ministry said.

A spokesperson for the home affairs minister said Maltese police will be stationed at the airport and seaports, while thousands of other police officers across the EU will be manning physical borders.

“It is hoped that a number of irregular Third Country Nationals will be found. One of the main aims of this operation is the fight against human trafficking,” the spokesperson said.

A massive police operation dubbed ‘Mos Maiorum’ was launched by 25 European countries on Monday to detect, detain and possibly deport tens-of-thousands of so-called “irregular” migrants.

During the 14-day Operation Mos Maiorum, some 20,000 police officers will stake out border crossings, railway stations, bus depots, and highways throughout Europe to apprehend so-called irregular migrants – people living without permission.

The operation is the brainchild of the Italian presidency of the European Council.

No clear data exist on the number of irregular migrants in the European Union, but unofficial estimates range between 150,000 to 450,000 people.

Mos Maiorum is to be coordinated by the Italian Ministry of the Interior's Central Directorate for Immigration and Border Police, in “close cooperation” with the EU's border control agency Frontex. “The agency was invited by the Italian Presidency to provide support to the operation in the area of risk analysis. This means that the agency will only provide the Italian Presidency with statistics and data analysis of the migratory flows at external borders of the European Union,” Frontex said.

Frontex said the operation was not a border control operation but ‘intra-Schengen’ and of ‘police cooperation’ nature, which are not within the mandate of Frontex.

A paper circulated to Member States' delegations in the Council outlined the main goals:

  • Apprehend irregular migrants and gather relevant information for intelligence and investigative purposes;
  • Identify, prosecute and disrupt organised crime groups;
  • Give a clear and updated situation picture concerning the operational area, modus operandi, main trends and possible rapid changes in these aspects;
  • Consolidate joint measures to achieve an impact on illegal immigration (border checks and border surveillance activities);
  • Carry out (based on the outcomes of the risk analysis), control along the main routes of illegal immigration on the main routes followed by illegal migrant networks (within the Schengen Area and at the external borders);
  • Collect and analyse information related to the so-called secondary movement.

During joint operations Member States' police and border officers may go about their work as usual. The only difference to normal operations would be the submission of data on those apprehended to the organisation coordinating the operation – in this case the Italian Ministry of the Interior and Frontex.

This data is used to create “a holistic view of illegal immigration flows for the entire internal Schengen space” - therefore allowing for more efficient planning at EU level.

The operation preceding Mos Maiorum was 'Aerodromos', organised by the Greek Presidency of the Council, which targeted 39 airports across the EU. Prior to Aerodromos was Perkunas, organised by the Lithuanian Presidency, during which apprehensions made by police and border forces from 25 states aimed at “identifying the link between illegal EU external border crossings and secondary movements of irregular migrants.” A total of 10,459 irregular migrants were “intercepted” during the operation.

Aphrodite, an operation which took place during October and November 2012, saw 5,298 individuals apprehended. A long-standing project initiated by Austria and Hungary, FIMATHU, has led to the apprehension of thousands more undocumented migrants.

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