Inside Europol

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http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38957246

In a light, airy office on the ground floor of Europol’s brutalist headquarters in The Hague, David Ellero, one of its senior officials, is reflecting on how the organisation has changed since he joined in 2007. In those days, some people confused Europol with Interpol and others thought it was just an annoying part of the EU’s bureaucratic machinery.

“Our counterparts, or the investigators in the member states, didn’t really know what we did,” Ellero says.

Now, the European Police Office, to give it its official title, is recognised across the law enforcement world, with a budget of almost £100m, and a workforce of more than 1000, to match.

Its effectiveness certainly isn’t lost on the UK government, which is preparing to start negotiations about Britain’s role in Europol after the country leaves the EU. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has said that the agency plays an “incredibly important role in keeping us safe in Europe”.

“The phone rings quite often,” says Ellero, with typical understatement.

A former detective – much of his career was spent in Italy investigating Mafia killings – he now heads a department tackling the top organised crime groups across the Continent.

“For a criminal to communicate with his counterparts across Europe it takes a second on WhatsApp.

“We need to make sure that… police (can act) at the same speed even if they have different judicial set-ups and and even if they speak different languages,” adds Ellero, pointing out that “even pickpockets” operate transnationally.

The main function of Europol, which started work in 1999, is to act as a hub for the exchange of intelligence between 750 global agencies. It also oversees databases containing tens of millions of pieces of information on criminals, offences and suspect vehicles, and it helps co-ordinate crime-fighting operations against drug dealers, human trafficking gangs and terrorists.

Outside Europol, other pan-European intelligence systems help in the fight against crime including the Schengen Information System (SIS). Although the UK is not among the 26 countries that have open borders under the Schengen agreement it can access the database which records cross-border movements and associated intelligence.

In 2015, the SIS was interrogated three million times by law enforcement officers across Europe with 64 million “alerts” placed on the system every day relating to stolen vehicles and missing children to foreign fighters returning to Europe from Syria and Iraq.

Indeed, one of the fastest-growing areas of work at Europol involves countering the spread of propaganda from terrorist groups and extremists. A 26-strong team in the Internet Referral Unit spends each day combing the web for material and then persuading social media companies and service providers to remove it.

The head of the unit, Vincent Semestre, likens it to “emptying the ocean with a spoon”. He says they’ve identified 91 internet platforms that have contained extremist content, more than 50 of which have co-operated with Europol in deleting the material.

Over the past 18 months the team’s most intense periods of work have come after terror attacks in Europe, when it’s had to act quickly to prevent the spread of extremist images, videos and postings.

“You need to have capacity in-house, which is understanding this ideology in its original language: which means staff speaking Arabic, speaking Russian, speaking Turkish,” says Semestre, who worked for the French judicial police before joining Europol.

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“The main function of Europol, which started work in 1999, is to act as a hub for the exchange of intelligence between 750 global agencies. It also oversees databases containing tens of millions of pieces of information on criminals, offences and suspect vehicles, and it helps co-ordinate crime-fighting operations against drug dealers, human trafficking gangs and terrorists.”

a hub?

“You need to have capacity in-house, which is understanding this ideology in its original language: which means staff speaking Arabic, speaking Russian, speaking Turkish,”

skill sets..

401

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~ by seeker401 on February 20, 2017.

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