Documents considered by the Committee on 12 September 2018 Contents

24Establishing a European network of immigration liaison officers

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee

Document details

Proposal for a Regulation on the creation of a European network of immigration liaison officers (recast)

Legal base

Articles 74 and 79(2) TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV


Home Office

Document Number

(39717), 9036/18 + ADDs 1–2, COM(18) 303

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

24.1EU Member States currently deploy around 500 Immigration Liaison Officers (“ILOs”) to 105 third (non-EU) countries.277 Since 2004, these ILOs have operated as part of local or regional networks, with meetings convened and coordinated by the Member State holding (or acting as) the Presidency of the EU Council.278 In recent years, their numbers have been supplemented by European Migration Liaison Officers (“EMLOs”) deployed by the Commission in 13 priority countries and by officers from the EU’s European Border and Coast Guard Agency (formerly Frontex).279

24.2The Commission considers that the networks established in 2004 do not ensure “optimal utilisation” of the “operational expertise, first-hand knowledge and contacts in third countries” obtained by ILOs.280 Its proposal for a Regulation would expand the networks to include EMLOs deployed by the Commission and EU Agencies, improve the exchange of information and align the networks more closely with the EU’s migration policy priorities through the creation of a new Steering Board on which each Member State, the Commission, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Europol and the EU Asylum Agency would be represented. The Board would be chaired by the Commission and meet at least twice a year. It would agree a two-year programme establishing “priorities and activities” for the networks, oversee their work and identify deployment gaps. It would also be responsible for ensuring that ILOs upload and exchange information through a secure web-based information exchange platform.281 The Commission anticipates that its proposal would improve the flow of strategic and operational information “upwards” from the networks to the EU and its Agencies as well as “horizontally” across participating Member States.

24.3The proposed Regulation would build on, and form part of, the Schengen rule book. Although the UK does not participate in the Schengen free movement area or apply Schengen rules on external border controls, it does take part in some Schengen measures concerning illegal immigration, including the existing ILO network. Under the Schengen Protocol annexed to the EU Treaties, the UK will be bound by the proposed Regulation unless the Government notifies the Council within three months that it does not wish to participate.282

24.4The Commission envisages that the network would be financed by the EU’s Internal Security Fund (the component on support for the management of external borders and the common visa policy) until the end of 2020 and by a similar budget line in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (covering the period 2021–2027). The UK does not participate in the relevant EU funding instrument.

24.5Under the proposed Regulation, third countries associated with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen rule book (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) would be entitled to participate in the network’s Steering Board as non-voting observers. Other non-EU and non-Schengen participants may be invited to attend as observers at the discretion of the Steering Board.

24.6We considered the proposed Regulation and the Explanatory Memorandum of 5 June provided by the Immigration Minister (Caroline Nokes) at our meeting on 4 July. The Minister described the proposed Regulation as “a bid by the Commission to provide an over-arching structure” to task and manage the activities of Member States’ ILOs more systematically and highlighted the creation of a Steering Board as “the key new element”. Whilst noting that the aims of the revamped ILO network were “aligned with UK migration priorities”, she indicated that the impact of the proposed changes “on a Member State’s ability to task their own staff effectively, without oversight of the Commission, and to develop bilateral relationships with third countries” would be a key issue for the Government. She added:

“Where the UK has no ILO posted to a third country there are benefits in utilising EU or Member State ILOs to further UK objectives on migration. Both opting out and exit from the EU may impact on the UK’s ability to utilise these resources.”

24.7In our Report agreed on 4 July, we asked the Minister whether she accepted that further legislative action was justified, in light of her view that the 2004 Regulation creating the existing ILO network (which the proposed Regulation would repeal and replace) was “unnecessary” to establish local coordination on the ground. We also asked the Minister for:

24.8In her letter of 20 July 2018, the Minister explains that at the time the 2004 Regulation was proposed, the UK considered that legislative action was not necessary to “drive coordination on the ground by ILOs”. In its latest proposal, the Commission “does not look to change that local activity” but to encourage “much stronger cooperation of Member States centrally” to reflect the “growth of EU institutional activity on tackling migration flows”. She continues:

“The Government accepts that to provide central oversight of, and direction for, ILO activity, EU legislation is necessary. The Steering Group and revised financial proposals provide the forum for this oversight and direction, rather than merely creating a legal framework that encourages local cooperation.”

24.9The Minister says that the deadline for deciding whether to opt out of the proposed Regulation will expire on 1 October 2018. Pending this decision, no discussion on funding for the network if the UK were to decide to participate has yet taken place. She notes, however, that “the UK currently funds the UK ILO network without support from the EU” and does not expect this to change. The Commission has not so far indicated that it would seek a direct contribution from the UK.

24.10The Minister does not anticipate that the proposed Regulation would affect the operation of local and regional networks which exist “in many overseas locations” and include both EU and third (non-EU) states. It is likely, therefore, that the UK would still be able to participate in the networks once it ceases to be a member of the European Union. However, the Minister adds:

“It is likely EU membership would be a requirement to access the proposed web-based platform as we believe it is about the sharing of information between EU Member States and institutions, the intention being to provide the Commission and other EU agencies [with] greater oversight of activity across the globe.

“Given this is new activity, should the UK not participate in the Regulation and/or as a third country not have access, it is at this stage difficult to judge the impact on resource requirements. Planning assumptions are that no additional resources are required by [the] UK ILO network based outside the EU at this stage.”

Our Conclusions

24.11We thank the Minister for her response. We ask her to inform us as soon as possible of the Government’s decision on participation in the proposed Regulation and what it would mean for continued UK participation in local and regional ILO networks:

24.12The Minister does not anticipate that the UK’s decision on participation in the proposed Regulation would have any resource implications for the UK’s own ILO network outside the EU. We ask her to inform us should this assessment change.

24.13Pending further information, the proposed Regulation remains under scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Regulation on the creation of a European network of immigration liaison officers (recast): (39717), 9036/18 + ADDs 1–2, COM(18) 303.

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-fourth Report HC 301–xxxiii (2017–19), chapter 9 (4 July 2018).

277 17 EU Member States, plus Switzerland and Norway, deploy ILOs.

278 See Council Regulation (EC) No 377/2004 on the creation of an immigration liaison officers network, as amended by Regulation (EU) 493/2011.

279 EMLOs are deployed in Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia and Turkey.

280 See pp 2–5 of the Commission’s explanatory memorandum accompanying the proposed Regulation.

281 The information would include relevant documents, reports and analytical products in the area of immigration as well as factual information on the host third countries or regions.

282 The three-month opt-out period starts to run from the date on which the last language version of the proposed Regulation is published.

283 Under Article 5(3) of the Schengen Protocol, the Council may decide that the UK can no longer participate in the exiting ILO network if it considers that the UK’s opt-out from the proposed Regulation would seriously affect the practical operability of various parts of the Schengen rule book.

Published: 18 September 2018