On 23 and 24 September, over 300 high-level representatives from 50 countries and a dozen international and European organisations attended the European Police Chiefs Convention (EPCC) at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague. This year, the police chiefs and senior representatives of national and international law enforcement authorities, European Union institutions and agencies as well as assorted academics gathered to discuss counter-terrorism and illegal immigration issues.
Illegal immigration was also high on the agenda of bilateral and multilateral meetings of police chiefs. Law enforcement leaders discussed, among other topics, how to strengthen co-operation and information exchange in an effort to identify key criminals involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration.
Moreover, a dedicated meeting of the Salzburg Forum European Union Member States and Central and Southeast European partner countries was held to discuss the serious challenges that these countries are facing due to increased migratory pressure.
The European Police Chiefs Convention has been organised by Europol since 2011 as a dedicated forum for senior law enforcement representatives to meet, exchange views and identify common ground on the most topical issues relating to the European Union’s security and law enforcement co-operation.
Distinguished speakers included Philippe Schrantz, director general of the Grand Ducal Police representing the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU and a co-organiser of the 2015 EPCC, James Comey (director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation), Alessandro Pansa (chief of the Italian Police), Alain Bellot (director general of Luxembourg Customs), Ingacio Cosidό (director general of the Spanish National Police) and Europol’s director Rob Wainwright.
The European Police Chiefs Convention was preceded by intensive work from law enforcement expert groups who produced dedicated reports in the first half of 2015. The message from their reports is clear: Europe is facing an evolving threat from terrorism.
The most dangerous terrorist groups in the world have the intent and capability to carry out attacks against the European Union and the West in general. There’s a threat of attacks from unaffiliated lone actors or small groups of radicalised individuals, as has already happened in the most recent terrorist incidents in Europe.
In addition, there’s an evolving challenge from terrorists spreading their propaganda online using the Internet and social media. However, as Rob Wainwright emphasised: “Europe’s political leaders were quick to recognise the seriousness of these threats and to reinforce their response.”
Wainwright also stated: Despite the few brutal terrorist attacks carried out this year and last, a far greater number of attacks have been disrupted thanks to the dedication and effective working methods of our agencies. The lesson learned is that cross-border co-operation must be part of these methods. In recognition of this need, Europol is building up its counter-terrorism capabilities to offer services tailored to the needs of the European Union Member States’ agencies and to decisively respond to the evolving terrorist threat.”
Alongside the European Police Chiefs Convention, Europol held a meeting of high-level counter-terrorism experts on the phenomenon of foreign fighters. The meeting was convened following an increasing need and readiness of the Member States to boost counter-terrorism co-operation and intensify information exchange in a secure way by using existing Europol capabilities.
Tightening of borders “could destabilise European growth”
Ongoing tensions surrounding the present refugee crisis threaten a tightening of borders which could severely disrupt European trade.
Ashley Owen, head of investment strategies at AES International, said: “The tightening of border controls in parts of Eastern Europe, as a direct consequence of the refugee crisis, could be the start of a worrying trend which may damage European GDP.”
Owen added: “The Schengen agreement allows free movement of people and goods through the majority of the European Union, and its economic impact is hard to accurately measure. However, it’s fair to assume that intercontinental trade is significantly boosted by the close country ties the agreement has enabled and that any threat to this would have consequences.”
The AES International strategist continued: “The political friction could further threaten import and exports between European countries and place trade ties under pressure. This would unduly hit SMEs which do business within Europe.”
In conclusion, Owen told Risk UK: “All of this is very disappointing as the influx of such high numbers of people at working age should provide a real economic boost over the coming decades if the process is handled correctly.”
Ian Livsey, CEO of the Institute of Risk Management, has made comment on why Britain needs robust risk management practices to support its decision to welcome 20,000 Syrian refugees into the UK.
Previously, Livsey served as CEO of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority where he saw directly how easy it is for the vulnerable to be exploited, trafficked and abused.
“Britain has decided to offer a home to 20,000 Syrian refugees,” he said. “This asylum programme needs to be supported by robust risk management procedures such that vulnerable women and children are helped as intended and not unwittingly exposed to harm.”
Livsey continued: “Taking the most vulnerable Syrian refugees under the Vulnerable People Relocation Scheme (VPRS) is welcome. However, it’s vital that local authorities are properly resourced and informed to ensure refugees arriving in the UK remain safe. Women and children refugees are among the most vulnerable people in the world. As such, they are attractive targets for traffickers and criminal gangs in the UK.”
As well as providing the basics such as housing, health and schooling, Livsey feels local authorities need to ensure proper measures are in place to stop these refugees from being criminally exploited when they finally reach a place of safety. “Asylum programmes to help genuine refugees must take into account the risks involved, which can be far reaching and not immediately obvious.”
Last year, the Institute of Risk Management published a report entitled: ‘Extended Enterprise: Managing Risk in Complex 21st Century Organisations’, focusing on the supply chains used by many large UK companies. In this, human trafficking was identified as a growing problem on a global scale and a major risk for companies that do not have complete oversight of complex supply networks.
Interpol and FBI to forge closer ties against terrorism and cyber crime
Interpol and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are to forge closer ties in combating organised crime and terrorism in the face of an ever-increasing number and range of global threats. Enhanced co-operation between the two organisations follows a high-level meeting between FBI director James Comey and Interpol’s Secretary General Jürgen Stock at the world police body’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France.
One of the main areas identified for increased information sharing was in counter-terrorism, in particular the identification and interdiction of foreign terrorist fighters. With UN Security Council Resolution 2178 identifying Interpol as the ‘global law enforcement information sharing platform’ against foreign fighters, more than 50 countries including the US have already provided information to Interpol on some 5,000 suspected and confirmed fighters linked to Syria and Iraq.
“International partnerships remain critical as we work to keep our nations safe from crime,” said James Comey. “Recent events underscore the pervasive nature of international terrorism and the increased need to share information. Interpol plays a crucial role by ensuring law enforcement agencies have access to real-time intelligence, which assists in identifying and countering common threats in order to protect those we serve.”
Strengthening combined efforts in targeting organised crime was also a key area for discussion, particularly in terms of fighting corruption and addressing the subject of asset recovery.
Comey was updated on the development of new operational tools being developed by Interpol to assist law enforcement in tracing and recovering criminal assets and combating corruption. These include the proposed creation of a new Interpol notice to assist member countries to locate, identify, obtain information about, monitor, seize, freeze and/or confiscate assets.
“As we face an ever-increasing range and scope of crime and terror threats, international cooperation between law enforcement agencies has never been so important,” explained Secretary General Stock. “Interpol plays a unique role in assisting police in each of our 190 member countries to identify and share intelligence leads, bridge information gaps and disrupt the organised networks behind a range of crimes which are often interlinked. However, this would not be possible without support and input from agencies such as the FBI. I look forward to us working even more closely in the future for the benefit of the global law enforcement community and citizens worldwide.”
Targeting the ‘Simda’ botnet
As the continued expansion of access to the Internet provides organised crime networks with increased opportunities to commit cyber crime (often to fund other illegal activities), cyber security was also high on the agenda.
Earlier this year, the FBI took part in an Interpol-co-ordinated operation targeting the ‘Simda’ botnet which had infected an estimated 700,000 computers worldwide and resulted in the seizure of servers subsequently used by cyber criminals to gain remote access to computers around the world.
The FBI also provides significant support to Interpol’s CBRNE programme both financially and in terms of the secondment of staff.