The EESC welcomes the renewed EU action plan and the comprehensive approach it proposes. It considers it essential to combat migrant smuggling by means of a "whole-of-route" approach, including by improving judicial and police cooperation and cooperation and dialogue with neighbouring countries in the fight against smuggling networks. Safeguarding external borders is a priority for the European Union, but these must always be protected with respect for human rights and the inviolability of public international law. The EESC points out that protecting people and providing medical care and solidarity aid should not be criminalised and treated in the same way as smuggling networks.
Instrumentalisation of migrants - Related Opinions
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The EESC is deeply aware of the horror of human trafficking and the harmful consequences for its victims and supports all measures to fight and eradicate it. It supports the intention to establish minimum standards at EU level that criminalise the networks involved in trafficking and exploiting human beings, and the use of services arising from the exploitation of trafficking victims. The EESC proposes that involvement of CSOs and social partners be incorporated into the Strategy and that these organisations be properly supported.
This opinion provides with the EESC's views on the new EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration, a key objective under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The EESC welcomes the strategy as a management tool that seeks to improve coordination and Member States' shared objectives in the field of migration governance. It also agrees with the Commission's approach of further reviewing and harmonising the existing instruments, in order to, among other things, improve the fragmented approach to the issue, reduce the costs of return and increase the funding allocated to programmes. The EESC however continues to hold the view that the strategic weakness of the European Union's immigration and asylum policy is its almost exclusive focus on tackling irregular situations, whether at the border or through voluntary and forced returns.
The EESC stresses that ensuring balance in dealing with asylum applications should not have to be the responsibility of individual Member States alone, but should be managed by the EU as a whole. It recognises the importance of the proposals having the legal status of a regulation – as opposed to a Directive. The EESC is pleased that the regulations invoke the principles of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, but this burden is not sufficiently balanced. Solidarity needs to be binding, in the form of mandatory relocations.
In this opinion, the EESC stresses that the EU needs to strike the right balance between effective and realistic migration management that is humane and sustainable, while ensuring security and control of its external borders. It must send a clear message that migration can be better managed collectively. It notes that the proposals accompanying the PMA are important but insufficient for the development of the common European framework for migration management, which would be both effective and in line with the EU's values and objectives.
Turkey’s geographical position makes it a first reception and transit country for many refugees and migrants. As the result of an unprecedented influx of people seeking refuge, the country currently hosts more than 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees and is making commendable efforts to provide them with humanitarian aid and support. The EU is committed to assist Turkey in dealing with this challenge.
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