Me neither. Until today.
Apparently, it is a forum of national experts meeting every two months to exchange information on legal and illegal immigration. The Centre was created in 1994 and includes all 27 member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
Okay, you might say, so what?
Interestingly, all member states have been asked what they think about this Centre, and for once the answers to the questionnaire sent out by the Council secretariat are fully public (pdf), which allows a comparative assessment between 30 states (Liechtenstein didn't answer) on a set of 18 questions.
And although CIREFI is just one of the many groups within the immense field of working groups, expert committees etc. that govern the European administrative space, the comparative reading of all answers still gives some very useful insights.
For time reasons, I just went through question 17:
Considering the activities of other platforms dealing with the issue of illegal migration, do you consider there still to be good reasons for the existence of CIREFI and that it continues to be useful for the participating institutions?and it seems like all member states consider the body a valuable forum for the quick exchange of information on migration, in particular illegal migration, and for the personal contact between professional working in the respective field(s).
(a) If so, what do you consider to be the main benefit of CIREFI?
(b) If not, what are your suggestions for the future functioning of CIREFI?
Some (like Finland, Germany) point to the fact that there is the possibility to double work with Frontex or that the work of these bodies could be combined, but most answers still indicate that they see an added value in this particular body.
The most interesting statement in the answers to this question comes from Slovenia:
"On the contrary of some other EU bodies working parties with the Council guarantees equal treatment of all Member States."That sounds like a pretty harsh critique, and it would be interesting to know what Slovenia is referring to...
So if you are interest in European migration policy, trying to understand EU and Schengen politics in this regard, the questionnaire gives a pretty good insight into one rather unknown institution facilitating the flow of information between the member states, thus probably having a significant impact on the political and technical perception of the problem throughout the EU and beyond.
In any case, it good to see such an assessment in a public document, and I would be glad if this was the case for many other documents, too!