The HOMEAFFAIRS Briefing is a regular specialized digest of the wider discussion on internal security policy. This time, we reflect on the growing momentum in the area of migration policy.

Mandatory Relocations Will Not Fix Irregular Immigration

  • The looming European Council meeting on Dublin IV will confirm that the proposed mandatory relocation mechanism (quotas) inevitably resulted in an impasse that is now tearing through national and European politics.
  • National interests of EU Member States are deeply divided on the issue. Furthermore, the mechanism would only incur additional costs and further destabilize public opinion and the political situation in the EU. In any case, the relocation mechanism would not prevent another migration crisis given that a large portion of the incoming migrants have no hope of actually receiving asylum.
  • Recognising this, the EU and its Member States are shifting their focus on external border protection. This comes with plans for a stronger European Border and Coast Guard.
  • While such efforts are laudable, they alone will not solve the problem the EU is facing. The potential for mass immigration to the EU must be tackled not at internal borders, nor at the external border, but in areas far beyond the external border.
  • This necessitates action in third countries, particularly in Africa. Genuine refugees must be detected as early as possible and settled in refugee centres in third countries, ideally in countries bordering their places of origin.
  • Illegal migrants must be detected and separated from genuine refugees before they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea. They must subsequently be either returned to their countries of origin or moved into detention centres in third countries. In any case, illegal migrants must not be settled in the EU.

Every two weeks, our team crafts internal security policy recommendations that incorporate handpicked publications from respected research organisations and experts in Europe and elsewhere. Our recommendations this week look at countering extremism in prisons, improving diplomacy with African countries in relation to migration policy and adding some suggestions on how to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters.

Provide Programmes for Rehabilitation and Exit from Extremism in Prisons

  • Drawing from the experience of Mohammed Khalid, a former Al Qa’ida operative who successfully underwent de-radicalization and reintegration into society, the Quilliam touches upon the journey of prisoners away from extremism.
  • To prevent prison facilities from serving as a breeding ground for Islamic extremism, prisoners incarcerated on terrorism-related charges must be provided with sufficient ideological and psychological help and a clear and meaningful path from an extremist background.
  • Engagement with organizations experienced in this kind of assistance should be an integral part of this process.
  • As seen in the case of Mohammed Khalid, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and struggled to find professional help, prisons should also engage with mental health services, ensuring they are well-prepared for working with problematic individuals showing signs of mental illness.
  • Short- and long-term expert assistance to imprisoned extremists can ultimately prove to be an effective way to prevent them from slipping further into extremist beliefs while behind the bars.
  • This is particularly important given that former inmates who hold on to extremist beliefs will likely spread them further. In contrast, de-radicalised prisoners often become important voices in the fight against extremism.

Offer Trade Preferences to African Countries Willing to Cooperate on Migration

  • In a new report, the Mercator Foundation outlines several aspects for a feasible EU asylum strategy, including more resilient agreements with African countries.
  • EU Member States must work with African countries so they:
    • accept the returns of their own citizens who entered the EU illegally;
    • allow for the building of refugee centres (for genuine refugees) and detention centres (for illegal migrants) in their territory;
    • work on preventing irregular migration to the EU.
  • Especially for the latter, conditioned trade preferences could be added to the EU’s migration diplomacy toolbox. The EU could offer increased trade relationships with third-countries in exchange for cooperation on migration issues.
  • Assistance to third countries could subsequently be widened to include financial and technical support for the hosted migrants’ economic integration and vocational training.

Bring Foreign Terrorist Fighters to Justice

  • As the Islamic State’s territorial hold crumbles, EU states must resolve the growing challenge of holding foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) accountable for their actions. This is an issue we discussed with the past, and practical details on what could be done are now emerging.
  • In this trilogy of Op-Eds, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) discusses various options for prosecuting crimes committed by FTFs in Syria and Iraq.
  • ICCT’s findings indicate that local authorities are often unable (or unwilling) to prosecute these crimes. Therefore, European courts should become more involved in investigating terrorist crimes in Syria and Iraq. Foreign courts can assert jurisdiction provided that the offence is committed by their nationals, against their nationals, on their territory or in cases of serious crimes even if there is no link to the nationality of the court.
  • The complexity of trials and potential language barriers may be overcome by sufficient funding and creating specialised war units like in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Sweden.
  • To ensure that terrorists are brought to justice, it is vital to carefully document all relevant information. The exceptional circumstances of war-torn areas may not allow investigators to collect all the evidence. However, other actors can facilitate in building a case against suspected FTFs. Prosecutors should closely cooperate with the military, NGOs and international mechanisms established by the Security Council which may have better access to obtaining evidence.