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Migrant smuggling requires more balanced humanitarian and law enforcement response

3 November 2015

Following the unprecedented numbers of migrants entering into Europe this year, the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee publishes a report calling for a more balanced humanitarian and law enforcement response in the EU's fight against migrant smuggling.


The European Commission adopted a wide-ranging European Agenda on Migration on 13 May 2015, with a view in part to addressing the current refugee crisis, the greatest humanitarian problem to have faced the European Union since its foundation. The EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling (2015–2020), published on 27 May 2015, was one of the measures foreseen in the EU Agenda on Migration. The Action Plan aims "to counter and prevent migrant smuggling while ensuring the protection of the human rights of migrants."


The Committee's main conclusions are:

  • As evidence suggests that a majority of those currently entering the EU as irregular migrants are at least prima facie refugees as defined by the UNHCR, the EU Action Plan should be amended to acknowledge that those smuggled may be refugees.
  • Insufficient weight is attached to the measures within the Action Plan to assist vulnerable migrants. Such assistance should be regarded as being at least equally important as increasing law enforcement measures. More should be done to create safe and legal routes for refugees to enter the EU, for example by making use of humanitarian visas.
  • Urgent work needs to be done at EU level to ensure that the information collected and shared on migrant smuggling is of high quality.
  • A single agency, ideally Europol, should be responsible for collating and sharing this information.
  • EU Member States should put in place arrangements for the safeguarding of smuggled migrants' rights and safety.
  • Cooperation with third countries is key to tackling migrant smuggling effectively, as third countries may be either countries of origin or transit for migrants.
  • The Commission should provide greater support encourage cooperation among EU Agencies and Member States.
  • The Commission should propose an EU Framework that builds
    on the humanitarian aspects of the UN Protocol, by criminalising only acts committed for financial gain, and by adding clauses to avoid the criminalisation of individuals or organisations acting for humanitarian purposes.
  • The budgets of EU Agencies should be reviewed to ensure that they are still adequate, given their increased responsibilities under the Action Plan.

What next?

The Committee intends that its report will inform the Commission's review of EU legislation on migrant smuggling, due to be published in 2016 along with proposed reforms.

Further information

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