The ideas and recommendations produced by the Euro-African Conference held in Naples, Italy, from 7 to 9 February 2011 offer plenty of food for thought for CEPOL’s future activities.
The issues addressed were drug-trafficking routes, the flows of migrants controlled by organized crime, and the political instability related to religious radicalism.
During the proceedings, which were attended by 68 African and European chiefs of police, a number of common elements in the analysis of crime related to the flows of migrants were identified.
To begin with, it was observed that criminal activities often interlock with one another: an undoubtedly migration-prone area, Africa is also a transit and storage point for drugs originating in Latin America.
As often as not, local criminal gangs, which may have military control of transit areas, allow the passage of drugs through their territory in exchange for money or weapons. These armed gangs often oppose the central government, in an attempt to impose religious fundamentalism as the form of government of their state.
The various humanitarian organizations, as well as a number of political representatives who attended the conference, stated that the real problem is the development of the African continent. Driven by endemic poverty, migrants face one danger after another, in an effort to seek better living conditions. As a result, the weak and vulnerable – women, children, and the elderly – often lose their lives.
Those who survive almost invariably fall into the hands of the organized crime rings that run the illegal transportation of people and goods to Europe.
Solutions have been proposed at various levels. The creation of favourable conditions for economic development and government stability in high-risk areas is a political solution that does not, however, appear to be feasible in the short run.
What could be achieved, as Italian Chief of Police Antonio Manganelli repeatedly emphasized at the conference, is establishing direct contact and entering into operating agreements with the individual countries: basically, team work, with “security” being the operative word, irrespective of the country of origin of the stakeholders.
With this in mind, four panels of experts have been set up which will evolve into permanent working groups. They will meet on a regular basis to take stock of the situation, analyze the changes underway and put forward shared solutions to combat crimes falling within their respective remits.
The four working groups are as follows:
- Trafficking in human beings and organized crime
- Drug trafficking
The final documents contain the guidelines and recommendations agreed by the countries forming part of this anticrime network. These will constitute common “rules of engagement” to counter transnational crime.
The members of the Immigration group have agreed the following recommendations:
- the launch of new projects, with possible input from international organizations active in the field of migration, to implement well thought-out strategies having socio-economic impacts, e.g. informing the younger generation about the dangers of illegal immigration;
- illegal migration source, transit and destination countries should strengthen international cooperation efforts to counter illegal immigration, by adopting national surveillance systems, enforcing tougher border controls and optimizing the use of technology. Similarly, EU countries affected by illegal migration should launch information exchange programmes, with a view to facilitating legal entry into the EU;
- enhancing the operational capabilities of the countries affected by illegal migration – and, more specifically, the technical and professional capabilities of the police officers entrusted with combating this type of crime – would necessitate carefully devised strategies and bilateral or multilateral agreements, with the support of the European Commission or other international bodies. This would include, inter alia, the planning of training schemes and the provision of technology;
- the use of liaison officers would favourably impact the fight against transnational illegal immigration rings;
- harmonizing the legislation in place in African countries – without prejudice to human rights – and bringing in legislative tools aimed at countering criminal association offences would be beneficial operationally;
- the use of international police cooperation tools, such as those provided by INTERPOL and EUROPOL, should be increased.
The members of the group on Trafficking in human beings and organized crime have agreed the following recommendations:
- to establish international police cooperation, involving our African counterparts in illegal migration source and transit countries to the greatest extent possible;
- to hold joint training seminars aimed at harmonizing strategies to combat illegal migration and protect illegal migration victims. Non-EU police officers could be invited to attend such training initiatives, with a view to increasingly involving migration source and destination countries in the fight against illegal migration;
- to make the group permanent and fix a date for the next meeting within the next six months. The idea is to create a body which coordinates future transnational investigations, and a forum for the exchange of information with NGOs, IOM, and ICMPD – rolled into one.
The members of the Drug-trafficking group have agreed the following recommendations:
- to encourage the production of a flow of information aiming to provide users with an intimate, up-to-date knowledge of the current situation;
- to work towards standardizing communication systems and languages;
- to identify needs and relay them to international fora such as the EU, UNODC, the G8 and the G20;
- to plan joint capacity building and training delivery projects targeted at law enforcement agencies;
- to facilitate the harmonization of legal provisions;
- to improve the exchange of intelligence and law-enforcement information, also through the creation of an African database.
The members of the Terrorism group have agreed the following recommendations:
- to create and/or strengthen an operational and information exchange international cooperation network of investigative bodies actively engaged in the fight against cyber terrorism, both proactively and reactively;
- to share, on a regular basis, best practice in investigative procedures and techniques, including the use of technology (both conventional and unconventional) for investigative purposes, with a view to improving undercover police operation techniques;
- hopefully, to pursue the above goals thanks to the interaction provided by the Euro-African Conference, considering the permanent nature of this forum.