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EU looks to crack down on migrant smugglers

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EU looks to crack down on migrant smugglers

Margaritis Schinas - Photo © European Union 2021

(BRUSSELS) - Releasing a report on migration and asylum Wednesday, the EU Commission put forward a renewed EU action plan against migrant smuggling and tougher sanctions for employers of illegal migrants.

The EU executive said the initiatives aim to prevent organised exploitation of migrants and reduce irregular migration, in parallel with the promotion of sustainable and orderly management of migration.

It says the initiatives will address both persistent challenges in dismantling organised criminal groups, as well as the need to adapt to new challenges including state-sponsored migrant smuggling, in response to the situation at the EU's external borders with Belarus.

"From continued pressure in the Central Mediterranean, to a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and new pressure on our Eastern borders, all of these developments show the imperative need for a sustainable European asylum and migration framework," said EC vice-president Margaritis Schinas: "The Pact proposals, if adopted, could greatly improve Member States' ability to deal with a whole range of issues currently faced."

Regarding the prevention of migrant smuggling, new steps include:

  • Develop Anti-Smuggling Operational Partnerships with concrete tools as part of comprehensive, balanced, tailor-made and mutually beneficial migration partnerships, further building on trust and mutual cooperation.
  • Further develop all operational, legal, diplomatic and financial tools at the EU's disposal to respond to the instrumentalisation of irregular migration by State actors, including by taking consequential measures in various policy areas i.e. visa, trade, development, financial assistance and others. The partial suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement with Belarus, which the Commission is proposing today, is an example of such measures.
  • Improve the implementation of the legal framework for sanctioning smugglers; including through the UN Protocol on Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and, within the EU, the 'Facilitators package'.
  • Improve the implementation of the legal framework for protection from exploitation; including the Anti-trafficking Directive, Victims' Rights Directive, Residence Permit Directive and the Employers Sanctions Directive.
  • Respond to evolving online practices and tools that facilitate smuggling, through enhanced operational cooperation and information exchange between national authorities and EU agencies.
  • Increase research and data collection for a better understanding of migration trends, the nature and span of criminal networks, the impact of anti-smuggling policies and the 'modus operandi' of criminal networks.

The Employers Sanctions Directive provides a European legal framework to prevent and respond to the illegal employment of irregular migrants. Today's report identifies actions to improve how the directive is put into practice, to address Member States' inefficient use of the rules on sanctions, protective measures and inspections to detect abusive employers and protect migrants from exploitation. To support Member States in improving the implementation of the commonly agreed EU rules, the Commission will:

  • Promote dialogue with Member States' authorities and various stakeholders, including through the relaunch of its dedicated Irregular Migration Expert Group on the Employers Sanctions Directive in 2021.
  • Support sharing of good practices by working with stakeholders such as national labour and immigration authorities, trade unions, civil society organisations, social partners, international organisations and the European Platform tackling undeclared work.
  • Continuously monitor the implementation of the Directive and focus on its effective enforcement, launching infringement proceedings if appropriate.

Report on Migration and Asylum

- Annex 1

- Annex 2

Renewed EU action plan against migrant smuggling (2021-2025)

Communication on the application of the Employers Sanctions Directive

Fighting against the exploitation of migrants - 
background guide

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