Fundamental rights should be considered when apprehending irregular migrants, says FRA

Fundamental rights safeguards should be considered when apprehending irregular migrants, according to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). These considerations should also be taken into account during the current European Joint Police operation, "Mos Maiorum".

The "Mos Maiorum" operation aims at ‘at weakening the capacity of organized crime groups to facilitate irregular immigration to the EU.’ It involves apprehending migrants that cross the EU’s external borders as well as those that cross national borders between Member States of the EU as the European Economic Area.

FRA research has shown that certain practices that seek to detect irregular migrants may have a disproportionate impact upon their access to essential services, such as health, education and legal support. As a result FRA has compiled practical guidance to help law enforcement officials, outlining fundamental rights concerns that should be considered when apprehending irregular migrants.

According to the EU’s Return Directive, any Member State decision to return a third-country national who is staying illegally in their country is subject to the principle of proportionality. In other words, the legitimate aim of fighting irregular migration has to be balanced against fundamental rights concerns. These may include general public health considerations, the interest of the State in fighting crime, the interest in ensuring comprehensive birth registration, taking into account the best interests of the child, as well as other relevant fundamental rights set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In the context of apprehension at the EU’s external borders it is important that domestic protection procedures exist for asylum seekers, presumed victims of human trafficking as well as separated children. Mechanisms must be in place at the borders to ensure that people who need to be protected are identified and channeled into appropriate procedures, and that they are adequately informed. Procedures should also be in place to identify survivors of torture and victims of other serious crime and for them to receive appropriate support.

The Mos Maiorum is the latest in a series of joint police operations that have been carried out in the past by previous presidencies of the Council of the European Union. Other examples include: “HERMES”, “BALDER”, “MITRAS”, “DEMETER”, “APHRODITE”, “PERKUNAS”, etc.