Combating Illegal Immigration, Terrorism, and Organized Crime in Greece and Italy

See full Version of the Article (incl. tables and references) here:
John M. Nomikos (2013): Combating Illegal Immigration, Terrorism, and Organized Crime in Greece and Italy, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 26:2, 288-303

During the 1990s the immigration problem in Greece began having explosive
dimensions due to not only political and economic developments in
southeastern Europe, but also to continuing conflicts in the Middle East
and North Africa. An important factor which played a relevant role in
shaping these developments was the 1991 collapse of Ramiz Alia’s regime
in Albania and the subsequent flow of illegal immigrants into Greece from
Albania and other Balkan states (mainly Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and
the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia—FYROM) due to the
political unrest that took place in the region during that period.

Italy also was affected by this episode—the first ‘‘mass migration’’—that
was solved through bilateral agreements. In Italy, the foreigners’ immigration phenomenon reached important numbers at the end of the
1970s due to the country’s ‘‘open door’’ policy, exacerbated by the
restrictive policies adopted by other European countries. The most recent
important migratory flux occurred with the ‘‘Arab Spring.’’ According to
the Italian Ministry of Interior, in the first nine months of 2011, 60,656
non-European Union (EU) immigrants, particularly from Libya and
Tunisia, arrived in Italy by sea—51,596 of whom landed in the Pelagie
islands—a huge estimate when compared to the 80,000 arrivals of the
previous ten years. On Lampedusa island alone—the nearest to the
African continent—on 13 and 14 August 2011, some 2,000 migrants
arrived in an area having a local population of 5,000. This was not an
isolated episode.
In both Greece and Italy, the national immigration policy today faces a
bureaucratic inflexibility that functions in a fragmentary way and makes
no substantial effort toward solving the problem. Dealing with illegal
migration as a national security threat is a strategic option. The formation
of national immigration policies which will prevent the flow of illegal
immigrants is absolutely necessary, as is giving directions in regard to the
integration of legal immigrants into both Greek and Italian societies in
coordination with the European Union’s Immigration Policy.
The European Commission must pay attention to the strategic added value
of the human intelligence (HUMINT) component in the European
Immigration Liaison Officers (ILO) Network. The officers need intelligence
to help prevent illegal immigration instead of trying to manage immigrants
after they have already entered the European Union’s member states.


After the fall of Europe’s Communist regimes, a mass influx to Greece and
Italy of illegal immigrants took place, mostly from neighboring countries.
The influx consisted not only of ethnic Greeks from those countries, but
also of Albanians, Bulgarians, and other Eastern Europeans. The later
wave of illegal immigrants—from the Middle East, South Asia, and
Africa—increased considerably in recent years, now constituting about half
the annual inflow to Greece. Contrary to popular belief and to journalistic spin, the other half still originates from Albania.
The census of 1991 indicated that some 10,260,000 inhabitants lived in
Greece. A decade later, by March 2001, the population had increased to
10,964,020, of whom 797,091 were foreign citizens. Among the foreigners,
47,000 were citizens of European Union member states living in Greece.
According to the latest official data, Greece’s immigrant population is
about 1,150,000, 300,000 of whom are ethnic Greeks from neighboring
Albania and the former Soviet Union. This leaves about 850,000
non-Greek immigrants, 600,000 of whom have a residence permit achieved
through consecutive regularizations. Notably, though, recent unofficial
estimates indicate that 140,000 regularized immigrants cannot meet the
criteria for the renewal of their current residency permits.
In Italy, according to the report of the National Institute of Statistics
(ISTAT), as of 1 January 2011, 4,570,317 foreigners were living there,
within an overall population of 60,626,442. Some 425,000 new immigrants
arrived in 2010, an increase of 4.4 percent over 2009—and the arrivals
continue to increase. Migrants to Italy are mainly from Romania (an EU
country), Albania, Morocco, Popular Republic of China (Taiwan), and
Ukraine. Other non-EU immigrants come principally from the Philippines,
Moldova, India, Tunisia, Peru, Ecuador, Egypt, Macedonia, Bangladesh,
and Sri Lanka.
The immigration policies implemented by Greece and Italy have been
mainly repressive and based upon restrictive measures aimed at restricting
the flow of illegal immigrants at the respective national borders, but with
different results. The Greek and Italian states must study the past and
current situations, note the weaknesses of their legal frameworks, and
design realistic and sustainable long term immigration policies because the
problems of immigration—legal and illegal—will become more visible in
the coming decades, with serious repercussions on national security and
employment in Greece, Italy, and other EU countries, especially of those
overlooking the Mediterranean basin.

Athens Meets the Issue

As to the legal framework, the first law dealing with the issue of foreigners
living in Greece was enacted in 1929 (Law 4319=1929). It lasted until 1991
when it was replaced by Law 1975=1991, according to which residence
permits were given only to foreigners who had labor contracts. During the
following years, the number of immigrants flowing illegally into Greece
increased rapidly due to the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the resulting
social, economic, and political unrest in the rest of the Balkans. In a
peculiar way, this situation led to the relaxation of the deportation policy regarding immigrants living in Greece and who were coming from Balkan states.
Since 1991, Presidential Decrees (PD 358=1997 and 359=1997) led to not
only that relaxation but also to the first program of legalizing the illegals which was implemented in 1998.

Moreover, the new Law 2910=2001 replaced the word ‘‘deportation’’ contained in the previous laws with ‘‘legalization’’ and other measures. Then Law 2910=2001 introduced the concept of family reunification as part of the process of permanent residence in Greece.
Unfortunately, implementation of Law 2910=2001, instead of setting goals
which would strictly mark out the battle against illegal immigration,
inaugurated a practice of legalizing illegal immigrants with the fewest
possible preconditions required of them. This led in subsequent years to
the increased flow of illegal immigrants, especially from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Thus any potential illegal immigrant must ask why not go to Greece when the prospect of acceptance, integration, and permanent residence in that country is so easy.

More Recent Legislation

In 2005, a new statute, Law 3386=2005, emphasized the concept of
integration and hinted at a policy of integration of illegal immigrants in
Greek society. A National Committee for the Social Integration of
Immigrants (Law 3536=2007) was created under the supervision of the
Ministry of Interior. The National Committee issued a Report regarding
developments related to the social integration of immigrants at the
national and international levels. The Report submitted to the Greek
Parliament included policy recommendations regarding the necessary
measures to be taken in facing the Problem.

The legal framework of the Greek immigration policy leaves open several
questions that can be answered only by officers of the Greek police who deal
operationally with the problems of illegal immigration. One officer who
desired anonymity responded to several questions, such as: ‘‘Why did the
huge and massive flow of immigrants in Greece bring great difficulty in
implementing Law 1975=1991?’’ and What are the difficulties? The answers to these questions indicated that illegal immigrants are overtaxing the capacity of the detention cells of law enforcement agencies, both the Police and Coast Guard.

The overcrowding occurs because in many cases the deportation
procedures (depending on an immigrant’s nationality and country of
origin) are taking a very long time. The procedure involves the
identification of illegal immigrants who, most of the time, possess no
document validating their identity. At this point, Greek authorities must
contact the diplomatic missions of the countries to which the immigrants
declare that they belong in order to obtain the travel documents needed
for completion of the deportation procedure. Problems also arise when the
declared country of the arrested individual does not recognize the illegal
immigrant as its citizen. In most cases, the problems escalate when the
country declared by the illegal immigrant is not represented by a diplomatic
mission in Athens (e.g., the Republic of Mauritius). As a result of this
bureaucratic dead end, illegal immigrants are detained illegally for months in the detention cells of law enforcement agencies, with serious consequences for their health and humane conditions. What usually happens is that illegal immigrants who come from countries that are not represented diplomatically in Athens are released and ordered to leave Greece within 30 days (Law 1975=1991) at their own expense.
Many questions remain to be answered regarding the laws that are
currently being implemented. How many illegal immigrants will actually
leave Greece? What happens if they will not leave? What rules apply if
they are involved in illegal commercial activities or criminal activities?
What will the implementation of the Dublin II readmission agreements
mean for the social cohesion of Greek society?

The Italian situation resembles that of Greece, even though Rome’s
anti-illegal immigration laws have been increasingly repressive and
restrictive. The first, Law 39=1990 (‘‘Martelli’’), defined and widened the
legal status of refugee and the related right of political asylum while,
simultaneously, attempting to regulate the influx of immigration during the
1980s by allowing the entrance to the country of only a small percentage
of non-EU immigrants, based on Italy’s productivity and occupational needs.
Due to rapid changes in immigration patterns, however, the law soon
showed its inadequacy, and a more exhaustive law was approved by
Parliament. Law 40=1998 (‘‘Turco-Napolitano’’) was then merged into
Legislative Decree 286=1998, the Single Act on norms concerning the
regulation of immigration and foreigners’ status.
Four years later, this 1998 law was modified by Law 189=2002
(‘‘Bossi-Fini’’). The main mechanism adopted for containing immigration
is the ‘‘fluxes policy,’’ through which the government establishes by decree,
year by year, the number of foreigners who can enter Italy for employment
reasons. The law also introduced some restrictions to the entrance of
citizens coming from countries that do not adequately cooperate with the
Italian government in tackling illegal migration or in readmitting their own
citizens who have to be repatriated, while granting preferential quota to
those states having bilateral agreements that regulate migratory fluxes and
readmission procedures. Law 189=2002 also tightened detention and
monetary penalties for aiding and abetting illegal immigration and
reformed the procedures or expulsion. Indeed, while the earlier
‘‘Turco-Napolitano’’ law highlighted the administrative aspect of
repatriation by honoring an intenion to leave the country, leaving
compulsory deportation as a residual, the ‘‘Bossi-Fini’’ Law advanced
forced deportation as the main mechanism of control. As in Greece, the
newly-created Temporary Detention Centers play a relevant role since
every illegal alien must remain in these facilities before being repatriated. The law also introduced preventive measures, including the implementation of cross-border controls.
The Bossi-Fini Law was subsequently modified by other acts, among them
Law 125=2008, which envisaged an expulsion measure for EU member states’
citizens condemned to a detention penalty longer than two years; Law
94=2009, which criminalized illegal entry and staying, and Law 129=2011,
that foresaw the possibility of keeping irregular non-EU immigrants in
a Center for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) for up to eighteen months.


In the last decade, Greece has become the recipient of an indefinite number
of illegal immigrants from Asian and African countries. Half the illegal
immigrants arrested by the Greek police are Albanians. But, most of the
illegals are entering Greece mainly through the Greek-Turkish border
with the tolerance or even the assistance of Turkish state authorities,
regardless of the bilateral agreements that have been signed on this
matter since 2003.
Notably, though, many immigrants who enter Greece illegally prefer to
seek asylum in another European Union member state and use Greece as
only a passage point to other European states. Therefore, the Dublin II
arrangement has proven to be rather insufficient for two main reasons: (1)
while Dublin II apparently sets the bases for regulating a rather chaotic
phenomenon, in fact it constitutes a convenient way for EU member states
that are not on the front line of the illegal immigration to deal with the
problem. As a consequence, asylum seekers having passed through Greece
are transferred back to Greece, which in 2010 undertook the heavy burden
of coping with 90 percent of all illegal immigrants entering the European
Union, and (2) a flaw of the Dublin II arrangement is the fact that it does
not take into consideration that no equivalent standards and practices for
the protection of asylum seekers prevail in EU member states. In fact,
Greece has one of the lowest refugee recognition rates. For instance, in
2009, from a total of 29,501 applications that were examined, only 0.04
percent were accepted. This situation has resulted in a conflict and
national security threat that seems to be impending over Greece.
In May 2010, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially
visited Greece, and Michalis Chrisochoidis, the Greek Minister of Citizen
Protection, and Besir Atalay, the Turkish Minister of Interior, agreed to
take all the necessary measures to ensure full and effective implementation
of the provisions of the bilateral Readmission Protocol in force in order to combat illegal immigration. Turkey agreed to accept a minimum of 1,000
requests for readmission every year. In the effort to combat illegal immigration, Turkey noted that the participation of other states in the broader region is necessary.

The Ongoing Threat to Stability
As a consequence, illegal immigration is actually an asymmetrical threat that destabilizes the Greek state. Of special importance is the study of the causes Turkey’s violation of the Readmission Protocol for illegal immigrants that was signed with Greece. Turkish authorities are not complying with the terms of the Protocol, and are not cooperating on issues of readmission.
Thus, they are creating many problems, particularly during the procedures
of surrender of the illegal immigrants on the borders with Greece. Turkish
governments are effectively implementing the ‘‘Ozal Doctrine’’ which
effectively states ‘‘We do not need to make war with Greece. We need to
send them a few million illegal immigrants from Turkey and finish with
The uncontrolled flow of illegal immigrants poses multiple
dangers to Greece’s national security because: (a) it can destabilize social
cohesion through demographic denaturation; and (b) it encourages the
spread of organized crime and terrorist networks. An illegal immigrant, a
high level operative of al-Qaeda, passed the Greek border and was arrested
by the Greek authorities after he tried to receive political asylum with
forged documents. Moreover, the U.S. State Department has published a report on human
rights and terrorism in which Greece is referred as the first entrance point
to the Schengen zone from its south and east borders (which are also the
borders of the European Union), and that its extensive coastline presents
the danger that terrorists will bypass its patrolled borders.
The uncontrollable influx and settlement of very large numbers of illegal immigrants into Greece’s major cities has resulted in the creation of ‘‘no-go areas’’ and
ghettos, especially in Athens’s city center. Not surprisingly, criminality is
rife and ethnic clashes and riots are commonplace in these areas. Another
symptom of Greece’s flawed immigration policy is the very significant
contribution of foreigners in such serious crimes as homicides, robberies,
thefts and burglaries, and rapes. This ‘‘contribution’’ ranges from 33
percent for homicides to 51 percent for thefts and burglaries (according to arrest data for 2009).
Albanians, being by far the largest immigrant ethnic
community, are responsible for a significant part of the imported
criminality. According to a recent police report, 42 criminal organizations from Albania operate in Greece.
As a result, illegal immigration to Greece
exploded in 2010. (See Table 1.) And in 2011 the number of illegal
immigrants arrested had also increased. (See Table 2.)

Some Contrasts
Although Greece has been neither a colonial power nor asked for a larger
workforce, it has received an uncontrollable number of illegal immigrants
in a short period of time. Absorbing the vast majority of these immigrants
by Greek society is extremely difficult due to ethnic, cultural, and religious
Greek governments must now finally understand that the time in which the
issue of illegal immigration could be ‘‘solved’’ by arid discussion and
confrontations between politicians has long passed. The intensity of the
phenomenon is ‘‘ante-portas,’’ judging from the over-population of many
Asian and African countries, along with the current Greek financial crisis.
This situation is creating an even greater tension in the Greek border
areas. Athens must declare to the European Union and the international
community that it can no longer serve as the ideal geographical area
through which illegal immigrants seek to pass in order to reach other,
perhaps more attractive, destinations.
As for Italy, official statistics indicate that, as against an increment of
about the 500 percent in the number of residence permits granted from
1990 to today, the criminality rate has remained almost unchanged, and
even in the regions with a higher rate of immigration, no augmentation of
the rate of criminality has occurred. Moreover, two-thirds of the
foreigners who work honestly have passed through the Caudine Forks of
an illegal status. An interesting study carried out on the Romanian
community shows how the legalization of all Romanian citizens residing in
Italy after the entrance of Romania into the European Union on 1 January
2007 drastically reduced the recidivism in the ten months following the
pardon of 1 August 2006, when compared with those who came from other
countries and have not been regularized. This overrepresentation in jails of irregular immigrants seems to be due to their illegality rather than to their status as immigrants.

Meeting Threats to Italy
But this doesn’t mean that immigration to Italy does not represent a threat
to its public and national security, particularly when considering the
involvement of terrorist and organized crime groups. According to a report
released by the Italian Intelligence System, the intelligence provided by the country’s intelligence agencies supported the implementation of stringent law-enforcement operations aimed at dismantling organized crime groups dedicated to illegal immigration, falsification of identity documents, and other illegal activities. Among them was Operation ‘‘Cestia,’’ which dismantled a criminal circuit composed of Afghan citizens aimed at facilitating the transfer of illegal migrants from Asia to Europe, and Operation ‘‘Scutum’’ that combated a network of foreigners from Pakistan, North Africa, and Syria who were financing terrorist organizations in their countries through the proceeds accumulated in Italy through these illegal activities.
The link between illegal migration and terrorism was clearly demonstrated
by a Turkish Hizballah terrorist cell that was smashed in February 2012 by
police in the cities of Terni, Modena, Milan, and Rome. Those arrested were accused of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Indeed, the organization had transferred to Italy Kurds and Palestinian migrants, providing them with accommodations, jobs at one of the several kebab shops managed by the
terrorist organization, along with forged documents to allow them to ask
for political asylum and then obtain a residency permit. The possibility
of such entry to the EU countries of potential terrorists hidden among
those requesting asylum for political or humanitarian reasons was foreseen
in the Europol report of April 2011.

Facilitating Terrorism
Several investigations carried out on Italian territory demonstrated how
illegal immigration—through the connivance of transnational organized
crime groups—contributes to the financing of terrorist organizations and
to the exfiltration of their militants from conflict zones. In particular, some
investigations have confirmed the presence of cells composed primarily of
overstayers who are members of transnational terrorist organizations,
whose task—perhaps secondarily—was to facilitate illegal immigration. In
2009, for example, two illegal immigrants from Tunisia were deported.
They had filed for international protection, but were wanted by the
authorities in their country because of past involvement in Jihadi-Salafi
organizations. In another important example, in September 2008, an
arrested Algerian citizen had been previously reported, along with a fellow countryman, by Algerian authorities to be a supporter of ‘‘Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’’ (AQIM). These examples easily lead to suspicion of the existence of a sophisticated method of illegal immigration that could be exploited by jihadists by taking advantage of the complicity of criminal organizations involved in the smuggling of migrants.
In addition, migratory fluxes—particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa
and the Horn of Africa—were more recently fueled by the riots in Libya
against the former Ghaddafi regime as a retaliation towards Europe, and
especially Italy, with which Ghaddafi signed, on 29 December 2007, an
agreement for a joint patrolling of the Mediterranean sea against illegal
migration. Also, the 2011 riots in Tunisia and Egypt fueled migrations
toward Italian coasts. In order to deal with this emergency, on 5 April
2011, Italy signed an agreement with the government of Tunisia, followed
by repatriations, which considerably reduced the flow. But other migrants
continued to come from Asia: particularly from Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and China—passing through
Greece and Turkey, while another route, through the Balkans, is used
especially by Eastern Europe criminal groups who exploited the
vulnerabilities of police controls in the Black Sea area.

The EEAS, a European Union department established by the Treaty of
Lisbon on 1 December 2009, was formally launched on 1 December 2010.
The EEAS functions as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for
European Union member states, implementing the EU’s Common Foreign
and Security Policy (CFSP) and other elements of the EU’s external
representation. The EEAS manages the EU’s response to crises, has the
Joint Situation Centre as an EU intelligence body, and functions under the
authority of the EU’s High Representative, who is in turn directed by its
director, Baroness Catherine Ashton.
The Joint Situation Centre (JSC or SitCen) was established in 2002.
As Mai’a K. Davis Cross has pointed out, the Center monitors and assesses events and situations world-wide on a 24-hour basis with a focus on potential crisis regions, terrorism and WMD proliferation. The most sensitive information is still shared through informal channels among smaller groups of EU member states with a history of trust and past experience sharing sensitive information.
In the EU member states immigration is presented as resulting in social
problems since it tends to disturb the social cohesion of a state. The
dilemmas that need to be addressed include: How can the EEAS update
the role of the Joint Situation Centre in cooperating efficiently with the
EU’s member states facing the issue of illegal immigration whose
seemingly uncontrollable dimensions can lead to explosive social unrest?
Are European Union Immigration Liaison Officers needed to conduct
human intelligence (HUMINT) operations in the EU border areas? And
should they possess, as well as analyze, the information at the Joint
Situation Center in order to combat illegal immigration and create
a Common European Union Immigration Policy (CEUIP)?
In dealing with these dilemmas, the European Commission took certain
necessary measures during the European Council of Seville in June 2002,
asking for the creation of a ‘‘network of European Immigration Liaison
Officers (ILO) from the EU member states before the end of 2002.’’
Moreover, the European Council of Thessalonica in June 2003 referred to
the strategic importance of intelligence to be provided by the ILO network, and for the ‘‘development of a mechanism that will assess the Relations.
with non-EU countries (mainly Asiatic and African countries) that are not
cooperating with the EU in combating illegal immigration.’’
with non-EU countries (mainly Asiatic and African countries) that are not
cooperating with the EU in combating illegal Immigration’’

Under the authority of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the
Immigration Liaison Officers (ILO) will have as their central objective the collection and sharing of intelligence among the EU’s Joint Situation
Centre and the EU member states in order to make the European Union’s
borders safer. Furthermore, EUROPOL (the European Police Agency) will
be kept informed by the Immigration Liaison Officers. The ILO’s
HUMINT intelligence collection network will focus mainly on:

a. The flow of illegal immigrants through a receptor country and the routes that
groups of illegal immigrants are following in order to reach territories of other
EU member states;
b. The means (transportation, participation of intermediaries) that illegal
immigrants are using to reach other member states;
c. The existence and operations of criminal organizations that are aiding and
abetting the smuggling of migrants;
d. The measures and means that the European Commission is using to prevent the
flow of illegal immigrants through its member countries;
e. The means of facilitating the outflow of illegal immigrants from their countries of
f. Intelligence (HUMINT) that is communicated from the ILO database through
the Rapid Alert System (RAS).

Moreover, the EEAS, in cooperation with FRONTEX, is to provide the
necessary operational support to the ILO network in combating the
uncontrollable and explosive problem of illegal immigration and transnational
crime in order to allow the EU member states to collaborate and share
strategic intelligence that will enable them to prevent or significantly limit the
future inflow of illegal immigrants to their countries.The ILO network is
the base for the fulfillment of the Common European Union Immigration
Policy since the European Commission is to clarify the kinds of skills needed
by legal immigrants. At this point, Greece and Italy must give preference to
evaluating competent officers who will be able to rapidly coordinate the
undertaking of operational activities for combating illegal immigration and
transnational crime with the least amount of bureaucratic inflexibility.

Envisaging every security problem as a threat to national security results in over-expanding its scope, eventually diminishing and scattering the intelligence efforts that are then diverted from other tasks of demonstrated greater relevance for the protection of national interests. Overall, migration in itself is not a matter of national security but rather of public security.
But the latest migration flows clearly deserve the attention of national
intelligence agencies when certain particular conditions occur: (1) where
irregular immigration is concerned; (2) when it happens on a grand scale;
(3) when it occurs as a result of conflict situations; (4) when it occurs in
a time of economic recession; and (5) when it involves groups of people
from countries with a social and cultural background different from the
receiving society, resulting in problems of social cohesion.
The European Commission, in order to efficiently and operationally
confront the problem of uncontrolled illegal immigration, has established
a network of Immigration Liaison Officers. But the ILO should focus on
effective HUMINT in order to prevent the traffickers in illegal immigrants
from bringing them into European territory, and not limit itself to dealing
with the problem after the illegal immigrants are already in European territory.
Reactive measures are simply no longer feasible in face of mass migrations.
Thus, preventive strategies must be developed and implemented by each EU
member state within the framework of the new Common European Union
Immigration Policy. Member states should shift their efforts from lawenforcement
repression operations to intelligence-led preventive activities.
These, however, depend on development and maintenance of a strong
political and coordinated will at both the national and EU levels.

Dr. John M. Nomikos is Director of the Research Institute for European and
American Studies (RIEAS), Athens, Greece; Chairman of the Mediterranean
Council for Intelligence Studies (MCIS); and Chairman of the European
Intelligence Academy (EIA).

On the 17 and 18 November 2014, jointly with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Kangaroo Group and the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, the ESRT will hold a major Security and Defence Conference in Brussels:The European Security Forum

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