Migrant smuggling

EESC opinion: Migrant smuggling

Key points



  • points at the increase in human smuggling in the last 20 years in view of human rights violations, conflicts, economic, environmental and other factors in the countries of origin, but also due to the lack of legal means of reaching the territories of many countries;
  • welcomes the renewed EU Action Plan against Migrant Smuggling (2021-2025) and the comprehensive approach it proposes; understands that protecting external borders is a priority for the EU, but that this should be undertaken with respect for human rights;
  • points at the need to avoid the criminalisation of solidarity, and considers that the role of civil society actors, social entities and NGOs in helping and supporting victims of smuggling should be recognised as humanitarian actions to reinforce the EU principles;
  • believes that the fight against human smuggling should take place via a ''whole-of-route approach'', which includes amongst others improving judicial and police cooperation and strengthening actions to prevent exploitation and ensure the protection of smuggled persons; special attention should be paid to the victims of smuggling, particularly those who are more vulnerable, such as (unaccompanied) minors;
  • points at the need for legal, effective and safe channels, and for the protection of the right to asylum, to deactivate a large part of this illicit business; fighting against human smuggling also involves strengthening the application of the Employer Sanctions Directive as irregular work can be linked to human smuggling networks;
  • condemns the instrumentalisation of migrants and asylum seekers as elements of destabilisation;
  • points at the need to support the work of the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) and EUROJUST, and to improve information gathering and information campaigns on the risks of migrant smuggling at source;
  • welcomes the fact that the approach proposed involves improving cooperation and dialogue with neighbouring countries in the fight against smuggling networks; whilst the development of operational anti-smuggling partnerships with third countries could be of interest, warns against these being agreed with countries where there are systematic human rights violations;
  • considers that in order to strengthen actions to prevent exploitation and ensure the protection of smuggled persons, pilot actions need to be developed which foresee the participation of administrations and social actors from origin, transit and destination countries.