NATO Parliamentary Assembly


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1.  Migration within the Mediterranean region is a long-established phenomenon with deep historical and socio-political causes and implications. The region has traditionally been an economic and cultural crossroads, but that role has increased in recent years. From the East, the Mediterranean serves as a transit region for migrants travelling from the Middle East and Asia into Europe.  From the South, the Mediterranean is a gateway to Europe for migrants from North African and Sub-Saharan Africa.

2.  The reality of migration in the region has become more complex recently for a variety of reasons. First, the inclusion of Cyprus and Malta in the European Union (EU) created two new portals to the EU in the Mediterranean. Second, traditional regional migrations within the Mediterranean basin have been overtaken by the use of North Africa, Turkey, and Balkan countries as transit zones for migrants from more distant regions. Third, the Schengen Accord on the free movement of people in its member states puts increased pressure on Southern European countries that are the first destination of undocumented immigrants from across the Mediterranean.  They effectively become the gatekeepers of Europe and must cope with the general difficulties of regulating the flow of migrants.

3.  In this context, recent changes in EU policy on border control and external relations have pushed Southern European countries down a path of increasingly restrictive immigration policies. The key strategies underpinning these policy shifts are bilateral co-operation to control coastal areas and land borders; the signing and effective implementation of "readmission agreements" with non-EU countries of transit to regulate the involuntary return of unauthorized migrants; and encouraging the development of immigration controls in neighbouring non-EU countries.

4.  The purpose of this report is to answer some of the basic questions driving these trends.  First, what countries are the sources of migrants and what are the evolving patterns of migration in the region?  Second, what measures are European states taking to control the flow of migration?  Thirdly, what are the social, economic and, in particular, security consequences of migration in the Mediterranean region?  Finally, what are some potential means to better manage the flow of migrants?


5.  Migrants across the Mediterranean region fit a variety of profiles. Some are temporary workers who plan to work in Europe for a limited period of time and remit most of their earnings to their country of origin. Others are political refugees seeking asylum in Europe as a result of war or persecution in their home country. Of particular concern, however, are undocumented migrants. By definition they exist outside of the legal framework and therefore are not subject to scrutiny before entering Europe. This has obvious consequences, in particular for the security of European residents. Although the vast majority of undocumented migrants are simply seeking employment, some may be associated with criminal and terrorist networks. The existence of clandestine networks that specialize in human trafficking is a breach of European security and their success in evading detection is a cause for serious concern. Another issue in need of special attention is the protection of the human rights of illegal migrants and their families arriving often in overloaded and dangerous boats in an attempt to escape poverty and conflict. According to IOM figures, about 36,000 people made it from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa in 20081, while arrivals by sea to the Canary Islands reached 9,181 in the same year2.

6.  Several paths of migration exist across the Mediterranean.  The first consists of South-North movements from North Africa to southern European countries, mainly Spain and Italy, and to a lesser extent Greece and France. It also includes migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who transit through North Africa on their way to Europe. Recent data from the International Organization on Migration (IOM) 2008 Report on ‘World Migration’ indicates that Europe is also increasingly becoming a destination for migrants from Egypt and Lebanon, and to a lesser extent, Syria3.

7.  The second path for migrants is from the South East to the North, which involves migrants from Asian countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Those migrants often transit through Turkey and more stringent European controls have resulted in more migrants remaining in Turkey. But the final receiving countries of these South-East-North migrations, mostly clandestine arrivals by sea on the islands of Lampedusa (Italy) and Fuerteventura (Spain), are Spain and Italy, and to a lesser extent, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.

8.  The third route is loosely described as North East to West, and mainly concerns Albanians who migrate to Greece and Italy across the Adriatic.


9.  The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) has estimated that some 100,000 to 120,000 undocumented migrants cross the Mediterranean each year, with about 35,000 coming from sub-Saharan Africa, 55,000 from the south and east Mediterranean, and 30,000 from Middle Eastern countries. Despite their relative poverty compared to residents in the countries they plan to migrate to, research conducted in Morocco and Ceuta in 2005 suggests that undocumented migrants are neither the richest nor the poorest in their countries of origin.

10.  The Straits of Otranto between Italy and Albania was a ‘hot spot’ for illegal migration throughout the 90s. When Albania’s Communist regime fell, more than 50,000 Albanians crossed the Adriatic in two successive waves of massive arrivals.4 During the two crises suffered by Albania in 1991 and 1997, waves of desperate Albanians crossed the 70km of sea separating their country from Italy. More recently, Albania has become a major transit point for Western Europeanbound migrants originating from Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

11.  Today, however, many undocumented immigrants reach Italy from Libya. Thousands of African, Asian and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing wars and poverty use Libya as a launching pad for the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Italy and Malta – often in rickety, overloaded boats. In particular, undocumented migrants and refugees from East Africa, who were previously using Egypt as a transit country to Europe, have now opted for the Libyan route as the result of better patrolling of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. Besides being physically close to Italy, Libya has a long and relatively unpopulated coastline. According to the IOM, approximately 36,000 people crossed from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2008: a sharp increase from the 17,000 who arrived in 2007.  In addition, at least 1.5 million undocumented migrants remain in Libya which feeds the constant flow of migrants to Europe.

12.  The Straits of Gibraltar is another ‘hot spot’ for illegal migration across the Mediterranean. The flow of migrants from Morocco to Spain has grown steadily over the past five years, with Morocco no longer just a country of origin but increasingly one of transit for migrants coming from sub-Saharan Africa.  In 2000, most undocumented migrants were Moroccan; today the trend has shifted and nearly 80% of the migrants are sub-Saharan Africans attempting to enter Europe through Morocco.5

13.  Each year, tens of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans are believed to migrate to Spain through Morocco. These migrants generally enter Morocco from Algeria after crossing the Sahara and come from an increasingly diverse array of African countries including Nigeria, Senegal, the Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Cameroon. Recently, even migrants from Asian countries, such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, have transited through Morocco. Once in Morocco, these migrants often attempt to enter the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla by scaling the tall border fences separating these enclaves from Morocco.

14.  The Spanish territory of the Canary Islands has become the most popular destination for sub-Saharan Africans attempting to reach Europe. Spanish efforts to prevent illegal immigration include increasing the levels of surveillance of the waters around the Canary Islands and improving co-operation with Morocco.  Those efforts appear to be showing results as the number of undocumented migrants arriving in the Canary Islands has fallen from 32,000 in 2006 to 12,478 in 2007 and 9,181 in 2008.6  This pattern demonstrates the success of diplomatic and cooperative efforts to reduce the flow of undocumented migrants.


15.  During the Cold War, western countries viewed the Mediterranean as NATO’s ‘southern flank’, and as a potential battleground between the Soviet bloc and NATO. The Straits of Gibraltar and the Channel of Sicily were viewed as strategic points within that context. Today, however, the Mediterranean is more of a gateway between the North and the South, that is to say between highly industrialized, prosperous and stable countries, and countries whose economic and political stability is more fragile.

16.  Since the beginning of the 90s, concerns have grown in Europe about irregular migration across the Mediterranean, which is the most important route through which undocumented immigrants seek to reach the EU. Sites such as the Straits of Gibraltar or the Channel of Sicily have retained their strategic importance, not as NATO’s southern flank but as problematic ‘hot spots’ to be secured against illegal immigration, organized crime, and transnational terrorism.

17.  Part of this concern is based on the fact that illegal immigration often involves criminal networks. The transport of undocumented migrants from Albania to Italy, for example, has been in the hands of the so-called ‘Albanian Mafia’.  These Albanian smuggling gangs are linked to larger international criminal syndicates trafficking in drugs, arms, and prostitution.  This nexus between illegal migration and international criminal organizations is a source of obvious security concerns.

18.  Large scale migration is also increasingly viewed as a potential security risk across Europe because the flow of legitimate and undocumented migrants can serve as a conduit that allows transnational terrorists to gain entry to Europe and provides immigrant communities in Europe in which they can conceal themselves.  The Madrid train bombings were planned and conducted by immigrants from North Africa.  The terrorists responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington DC in 2001 planned much of their operation from within the immigrant community in Hamburg.  The Finsbury Park mosque and the immigrant community it served in London became a recruiting ground for terrorists including the infamous “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.  It is increasingly evident that Europe is a target for terrorist action as well as a springboard for attacks against targets in the broader transatlantic space.  In this context, the Secretary General of NATO has noted the increasing relevance of the Mediterranean region in transatlantic security.

19.  There is no doubt that the vast majority of immigrants are law-abiding individuals whose migration is motivated by the chance of living a better life. It also should be carefully acknowledged that the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not security threats.  But it cannot be ignored that threats to European security have arisen from the immigrant community and that this must be addressed in a comprehensive manner. 

20.  The question is how can European states, either individually or collectively, do so while preserving the benefits of immigration? Europe cannot close the door to migration across the Mediterranean out of security concerns.  Yet, Europe has an obligation to protect its residents from the acts of those whose political ideology justifies widespread violence.  Doing so should not be interpreted as a threat to immigrant communities; terrorist violence is indiscriminate, and measures to prevent it protect both the indigenous and immigrant communities in Europe.  In fact, this can be particularly beneficial to the immigrant community which may unfairly bear the burden of suspicion and prejudice after terrorist violence occurs that can be traced to a very small minority hiding within their ranks.

21.  A number of states have turned to increased surveillance as a partial solution to the security issues raised by migration across the Mediterranean.   Since 2003, the Spanish Interior Ministry has tripled its number of antiterrorism operatives, and has assigned hundreds of agents to specifically tracking radical Islamist networks.  Spanish law enforcement has also formed task forces to keep a closer eye on immigrant neighbourhoods.  France is taking a similar approach and special police cells have been formed in every French department for surveillance of radical Islamist bookstores, long-distance calling centres, and other locations that attract extremists.7

22.  This approach, however, seeks to minimize security threats once they are within the national territory.  A more forward thinking approach is to prevent illegal immigration and its potential security consequences in the first place through improved border control.  Much of the effort in this area has been in collaborative projects with Southern Mediterranean countries.


23.  The intensification and expansion of policing activities in and across the Mediterranean sea is the main tool for combating irregular migration, human smuggling and other transnational challenges.  Increased attention has also been devoted to the growing deployment and expansion of semi-military security forces to deal with illegal migration by sea and with the growing involvement of European navies in the Mediterranean area.8 NATO naval forces have also been involved in immigration control in the Mediterranean. In 2002, NATO’s Mediterranean fleet was dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean under Operation Active Endeavour. The official goal of the mission was to combat terrorism but important objectives such as preventing irregular migration and trafficking in arms and human beings in the Mediterranean basin were also pursued. Moreover, law enforcement co-operation among nations north and south of the Mediterranean has also increased over the last few years. A series of EU agreements and guidelines on the management of illegal migration has been put into place and the EU has put great pressure on southern Europe to control the phenomenon of ‘illegal migration’ in a more aggressive way.9 However, there is insufficiently effective legislation concerning the management of ‘legal migration’ at the EU level, reflecting the different interests at stake and the diverse experiences of European countries in dealing with the matter.

24.  Since 2001, EU countries have been directing their attention to internal security and Justice and Home Affairs issues in close connection with the partner countries of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.10 Their efforts have increasingly addressed international terrorism in addition to irregular migration and cross border crime, even though co-operation in this area continues to be hampered by the lack of a common definition of terrorism among countries north and south of the Mediterranean.  At the Valencia Conference of Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers in 2002, a framework document on regional cooperation on internal security issues such as combating drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism as well as co-operation on migration related issues was adopted. Following the Valencia Action Plan, relatively large-scale cooperative projects on Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) issues were launched in several southern Mediterranean countries within the framework of the MEDA programme. 11  On the one hand, these programmes have encouraged institutional reforms of the internal security apparatus of southern Mediterranean countries, such as strengthening the rule of law or combating corruption. On the other, they have focused on enhancing the capacity of these countries to fight irregular migration and organized crime while promoting co-operation among them to better reach these long-term goals.

25.  In Morocco, for example, the largest project to be launched within the EU Action Plan has been the construction of a border surveillance system along the country’s northern coast to prevent irregular migration and drug trafficking to Spain. Similarly, in Algeria, 10 million euros have been allocated since 2000 to improve the capacity of the Algerian police to manage irregular migration into and through the country. The growing importance attributed to co-operation on internal security and JHA issues is also evidenced in the Action Plans that the EU has proposed for several southern Mediterranean countries under the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy. These proposed Action Plans contain extensive provisions on collaboration in internal security areas such as irregular migration, organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism.

26.  The EU’s External Borders Management Agency (FRONTEX) was created in 2005 to reinforce border security and enhance the co-ordination of Member States in their application of Community measures regarding external border management. The continued focus of EU migration policy on border enforcement has also been reflected in the 30 million Euros increase to the 2008 FRONTEX budget. Two main joint operations were launched by the EU border control agency in the Mediterranean area in 2008: HERA which tackles illegal migration flows from West African countries to the Canary Islands and NAUTILUS, which aims at reinforcing border control activities in the Central Mediterranean and controlling illegal migration flows from North African countries to Malta and Italy.

27.  In June 2008, the European Parliament adopted the Council Directive on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning undocumented third-country nationals, known as the Returns Directive. The measure, which will come into effect in 2010, permits the detention of undocumented migrants and failed asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, for up to 18 months and allows for a five-year ban on re-entry. In a further sign that the EU is moving towards a tougher policy on migration, its 27 Member States agreed in July 2008 to a French proposal for a ‘European Pact on Immigration’ that puts a clear emphasis on policing. It provides for the expulsion of undocumented migrants from European soil, tougher border controls, and the creation of a joint asylum policy by 2012. 

28.  Regardless of what measures are implemented, there are limits to the degree such legislation can emphasize detention and expulsion.  There are an estimated 5 to 8 million undocumented migrants living in the EU.  They cannot simply be expelled en masse without causing serious social, legal and humanitarian problems. It is of critical importance to consider the particular circumstances of individual undocumented migrants before returning them to their country of origin.   European states are morally obligated to grant asylum to those undocumented migrants who genuinely fear persecution based on their ethnic, political or religious persuasion.  Therefore, each case must be considered individually to separate those who are genuine asylum seekers from those who simply seek economic opportunity. 
29.  Although the EU plays a prominent role, collaboration among countries north and south of the Mediterranean has developed at a bilateral level as well. Such co-operation has been particularly relevant for the countries that are directly connected by migratory movements.

30.  One of the earliest examples of this bilateral co-operation was between Italy and Albania. Following the crisis of 1997, Italy engaged in very intense collaboration with Albanian law enforcement and internal security agencies, with the main objective of preventing irregular migration and human smuggling from and through Albania to Italy. Starting in the late 90s, a series of bilateral and multilateral police assistance missions, primarily located along the Adriatic coast, were launched to support the Albanian police in combating migration and human trafficking from its shores to Italy12. These missions have involved activities such as joint patrols along the Albanian coast, training, provision of technical equipment, and intelligence sharing. Since 1997, Italy has deployed three missions based on bilateral agreements: one under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, one under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, and one mission by the Italian Coast Guard. The EU has also established three police missions in Albania. In 1996, 300 Italian police and coastguard officers were deployed to Albania within the framework of these police assistance missions. Furthermore, in 1997, the two countries signed a readmission agreement allowing the Italian authorities to send undocumented migrants directly back to Albania.

31.  More recently, Italy has signed various co-operation agreements with Libya to provide equipment, training courses and exchanges of liaison officers to improve Libyan border control capacity.  In 2003 the heads of the Italian and Libyan police forces signed an agreement on joint measures to combat irregular immigration and human smuggling from Libya. Since then, a range of joint activities aiming at enhancing Libya’s capacity to secure its borders, have been undertaken. These have included exchanges of liaison officers specializing in illegal migration and human trafficking, and the organization of training courses for Libyan border control officers. In February 2009, Italy and Libya agreed to carry out joint maritime patrols and improve deportation procedures. The agreement followed the Italian Interior Ministry’s announcement that the number of migrants arriving in Italy by boat rose to 36,900 in 2008, an increase of 75% over the previous year.13

32.  Libya also agreed to a draft readmission agreement with Malta, and signed co-operation agreements with the neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger, Sudan, and Egypt on border control issues and the exchange of information. In August 2005 Libya signed a co-operation agreement with the IOM, which opened its Tripoli office in April 2006 to start activities financed by the Italian government.

33. Similar co-operation has grown between Spain and Morocco. Despite conflicts between the two countries over illegal migration and smuggling, bilateral co-operation currently includes joint patrols along land and maritime borders, the exchange of liaison officers in airports and border checkpoints, and sizeable financial aid to Morocco for its development of border control systems. In December 2003 for example, the Spanish and Moroccan governments announced a plan to carry out joint patrols along both Morocco’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coast. In exchange for the measures adopted by Moroccan authorities to tackle illegal migration, Spain granted Morocco a financial aid package of almost 400 million euros over a three-year period.

34. Co-operation on illegal migration between Turkey and Greece plays a key role in the Mediterranean area. Due to its location at the crossroads between Asia, Africa, and Europe, Greece is a transit point for illegal immigrants on their way to Western and Northern Europe. The majority of people arriving without legal documents originate from Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, and Somalia and transit through Turkey before trying to enter Greece. As a result of bilateral negotiations, a readmission agreement between Turkey and Greece was signed in November 2001. However, between the entry into force of the agreement and 2007, Turkey accepted only 2,087 illegal migrants from a total of 26,697 deportations14. No EU-Turkey readmission agreement exists, while readmission agreements with many countries of origin are currently under negotiation15. On the other hand, Greece is known to have frequently resorted to informal deportation of irregular migrants, including refugees, without giving them the possibility to apply for asylum in the country. Border incidents between the two countries and involving irregular migrants occur frequently.

35.  A sensitive issue has been the return of undocumented migrants from Europe to the countries that they passed through on their way to Europe.  Since 2004, more than 1,000 undocumented immigrants reportedly have been repatriated to Libya from Italy. The European Parliament called upon Italy to stop deportations to Libya in view of the unacceptable conditions of its reception camps. Following new agreements between Italy and Libya, in 2008 a more coordinated action was undertaken by military and police forces to counter illegal immigration to Italy. Recently, boats with large groups of irregular unidentified migrants onboard were intercepted in international waters and sent back to Libya. This policy has drawn criticism from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR). 


36.  The results of these actions to improve co-operation have been mixed.  According to the Italian Interior Ministry, over 10,600 illegal immigrants arrived by sea in Italy in the first half of 2008, nearly twice as many as the 5,378 reaching the country’s shores in the same period in 2007.16  On the other hand, the Spanish Interior Ministry reported a 25% decrease in the number of undocumented immigrants trying to enter Spain by land, sea, and air in 2008.

37.  Two unwanted and undesirable effects have been suggested as a result of policing efforts across the Mediterranean area: an increased ‘professionalisation’ of irregular migration and a diversion of the migratory flows towards more dangerous routes. There may be a direct connection between stricter border controls, on the one hand, and the enhanced role played by human traffickers on the other.17 Undocumented migrants seeking to enter Italy, for example, have increasingly turned to Albanian smuggling gangs operating speedboats to cross the Adriatic. Many observers have also pointed out a diversion of the migratory flows across the Mediterranean. The Italian Interior Ministry has estimated that most migrants now transit through Libya, and the Channel of Sicily has thus increasingly replaced the Straits of Otranto as the main gateway for irregular migration. A report recently issued by the Italian research institute CESPI stressed that starting in 2002 arrivals on the Island of Lampedusa have increased from 5,000 to 10,000 in 2007.This route diversion shows the high degree of adaptability and flexibility of the transnational trafficking networks and their capability to find new entry points.  A similar diversion effect is observed in Spain’s southern borders, where in recent years the Mediterranean route across the Straits of Gibraltar has been increasingly replaced by the Atlantic route via the Canary Islands. Therefore, migrants have been seeking to reach Spain via the Canary Islands by departing from Morocco’s Atlantic coast.


38.  Migration in the Mediterranean region should not be viewed solely in a negative context as a problem to be solved.  The southern Mediterranean area also provides Europe with a large and mobile workforce willing to cover open labour niches and offset demographic imbalances. Destination countries benefit from migration’s positive impact on national shortages in the labour market, which acts as a catalyst for the creation of new jobs and boosts labour market efficiency. The available evidence on the impact of migration on domestic wages and employment is inconclusive, but it does not support the view that migration has either raised unemployment or significantly depressed wages. Although national experiences vary, the net budgetary impact of migration appears overall to be positive because the tax payments of migrants often outweigh their consumption of public services.18

39.  Immigration is also a means of increasing the working-age population in Europe. The ageing of Europe and the increasing ratio of retirees to workers is a problem across the continent. Estimates indicate that in the EU member states over 70 percent of demographic growth during the last decade is a direct result of immigration. Furthermore, it is estimated that at least 30 percent the population of most European states will be retired in the coming decades.  Without further growth in the working-age population, either through birth or immigration, welfare systems will be increasingly stretched to provide citizens with the benefits that have come to expect.

40.  A second important opportunity linked to migration in the Mediterranean region is the strong impact that immigrant workers have on their home country economies. Remittances form a significant portion of the foreign exchange receipts of labour exporting countries and can have a strong impact on local development.

41.  For a variety of reasons, migration can be seen as having positive effects for both the recipient country and the migrant’s country of origin. Migration provides Europe with a large and mobile workforce willing to cover open labour niches and offset imbalances in the working-age population demographics. Estimates indicate that in the EU member states over 80% of demographic growth during the last decade is a direct result of migration19. A second important opportunity is the strong impact that immigrant workers have on their home-country economies. Remittances form a significant portion of the foreign exchange receipts of labour export countries and if properly managed, can be an active tool for national development and improved security. Thus, migration is not a problem to be eliminated, but rather a challenge to be managed to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative consequences. The critical question is, what can be done at a national and international level to better manage migration across the Mediterranean?


42.    A mix of policy, legal, and operational tools is required to address the migration challenge.  The goal is not to eliminate migration, but rather to control it.  The critical component is minimizing the security impact of migration, and several areas for improvement are suggested by this report:

43.  Focus on migration management as part of developmental and state-building assistance. Most migrants crossing the Mediterranean do so to improve their lives and escape grinding poverty, persecution, and discrimination. Reducing those problems in both North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa could eventually reduce the incentives for migrants to take a long, expensive and hazardous voyage to Europe. Moreover, a regional approach to illegal migration could help reduce population pressures in sending countries and limit the “brain drain”. At the moment, the bulk of development policy and immigration control policy exist separately. They should be combined and better resourced.

44.  NATO could play more of a direct role in this regard by improving its state-building and peace-building capabilities.  Many migrants are driven by interstate and intrastate conflicts that drive them from their homes in search of security and stability.  NATO has developed considerable experience through its Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan and its peacebuilding efforts in the Balkans that could be applied to other regions that are sources of migrants.  If NATO can help to improve security and stability in those countries, it is likely that fewer undocumented migrants would choose to face the risks inherent in attempting to migrate to Europe.

45.  Focus on border control close to the ports of embarkation.  There has been an upsurge in cooperative border control projects between EU member states and North African countries.  So far the record has been mixed and it is difficult to determine if those efforts have succeeded.  But the logic is sound:  there are only so many points along the coast where human traffickers can launch boats across the Mediterranean.  If those points can be more tightly controlled by a combination of European and North African patrols using a mix of surface vessels and unmanned aerial vehicles, illegal immigration should be reduced close to the source.  This is far preferable to patrolling on the high seas or closer to Europe when undocumented migrants are apprehended after making extremely risky crossings that have taken more than 14,000 lives in the past 20 years, including several hundred in 2009 alone.

46.  Work with North African countries to improve migrant repatriation.  This report has shown how European countries are working their North African partners to stem the flow of migrants through their borders from sub-Saharan Africa.  But when migrants are returned from Europe to North Africa, they often find themselves placed in inhumane detention facilities in Libya and Senegal where beatings, sexual abuse and malnutrition are common.20  This can only increase the determination of migrants to escape such dire circumstances and make another attempt to reach European shores.

47.  Improve security co-operation between EU members.  There has been much activity in the area already as the creation of organizations such as FRONTEX demonstrate.  Yet, there is room for considerably closer co-operation on domestic intelligence and the sharing of intelligence that could be vital in uncovering plots against European residents.  As this report has noted, many EU members have stepped up surveillance of immigrant neighbourhoods in an effort to prevent terrorists hiding within them from becoming serious threats to the community.  But it is generally the case that national police and intelligence services do not regularly share information and coordinate actions.  This is undoubtedly a national prerogative, but in a Europe of increasingly open borders, there is room for more collaboration and co-ordination at this level.

48.  NATO could also play a role in this by increasing its ability to monitor social, political and economic trends across the regions that supply the flow of undocumented migrants.   As part of its broader political transformation, NATO could establish analysis units that would integrate a range of information on trends and their implications for European security, including trends that fuel migration.  This is in fact a critical security issue for European states.  The scale of illegal immigration into Europe and the difficulties that many European states face in integrating new arrivals can create ethnically or religiously defined underclass communities that serve as incubators of terrorist activity.  This problem is all the more acute when viewed in the context of “home-grown” terrorists who identify more with a distant ethnic homeland than their country of birth.21

49.  Migration across the Mediterranean is a long-standing feature of the region.  It cannot be eliminated, but it must be controlled and regulated.  At the same time, those who migrate to Europe must be integrated and accept the values and principles that form the basis of European society, because fanaticism and extremism takes root and spreads in conditions of social isolation.  This is ultimately a security concern that covers all of Europe.  Managing migration, co-operating across the Mediterranean to minimize terrorist activity and integrating immigrants into European society will strongly affect our common security.  The open borders between most EU members mean that an undocumented entrant to one EU country has unrestricted access to most others.  It is critical to know who is entering the EU and controlling the illegal flow of migrants across the Mediterranean is a large part of fulfilling this important function. 


1         “Libya Migrant Search Called Off”, BBC online, 2 April 2009. At:

2   “Spanish Ministry of the Interior, Satellite Helps fight Illegal Immigration”, BBC online, 25 January 2009. At:    .

3  IOM (2008): World Migration 2008: Managing Labour Mobility in the Evolving Global Economy.
4   Derek Lutterbeck, “Policing Migration in the Mediterranean,” Mediterranean Politics, March 2006, Vol.11, No.1, pp. 59-82.

5   “African storm Spanish enclave in Morocco,” Deutsche Welle, 22 June 2008.

6   “Spanish Ministry of the Interior, Satellite Helps fight Illegal Immigration,”  BBC, 25 January 2009.

7   Robert Leiken, “Europe’s Angry Muslims,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005, Vol.84, No. 4. pp. 120-135.

8   Since the first Albanian refugee crisis of 1991, the Italian Navy has been actively engaged in the prevention of undocumented migration across the Adriatic, and over the 1990s, immigration control has become one of its core functions. The navies of other southern European countries, as well, have increasingly taken on an anti-immigration role in the Mediterranean.

9   The Tampere European Council of October 1999 already stressed the importance of assistance to countries of origin and transit in order to strengthen their ability to combat illegal migration. The Council launched the ARGO programme for 2002-2006, which encouraged administrative co-operation at EU level in the fields of asylum, visas, immigration, and external borders. For the 2004-2008 period, the EU launched the AENEAS programme, aiming at granting financial and technical assistance to third countries in the areas of migration and asylum.

10   The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, established following the Barcelona Conference in November 1995, marked the beginning of co-operation between the EU and 12 Mediterranean countries. The Partnership has a bilateral dimension and a regional dimension. The MEDA programme was the financial instrument for implementation of the Partnership. It was replaced by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument on 1 January 2007.

11   Financial and technical measures to accompany the reform of economic and social structures in the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership (MEDA)

12   Lutterbeck, p.71.

13 “  Libya gets EU funds to combat illegal Immigration,” International Herald Tribune, 10 February 2009.

14        Agence Europe Press, 9 January 2008

15    Turkey has signed readmission agreements with Syria, Kyrgyzstan, and Romania and is currently negotiating agreements with source countries in the former Soviet Union, Middle East and Asia. Greece has signed readmission agreements with Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Tunisia, Egypt, China, and Pakistan.

16   “Italy Announces State of Emergency Over Immigration,” Deutsche Welle, 26 July 2008.

17   “The Tragedy of Europe’s Boat People,” Der Speigel on line, 4 July 2009.

18   Bureau of European Policy Advisers, “Migration and Public Perception,” October 2006.

19         “Europe's population would decline without migrants”, EU Observer online, September 2009.

20   “The Tragedy of Europe’s Boat People,” Der Speigel on line, 4 July 2009.

21         Allen Sens, “ The Road to Riga,” NATO Review, No.4. Winter 2006

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