A total of 276,113 migrants entered the EU irregularly last year. This was an increase of 138% compared to 2013 and the EU Commission advise that most of these migrants had recourse to criminal networks of smugglers at extortionate personal cost.
Migrant smuggling is a massive criminal activity that is growing at an unprecedented scale and intensity. Around 3,000 migrants are estimated to have lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea in 2014 (UNCHR, 2015). The EU Commission advise that the ruthlessness of people smugglers, whom we have seen expose migrants to life-threatening risks and violence, requires “a strong response”.
In 2002, the EU adopted a legal framework on smuggling, composed of a directive to define the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence and a framework decision to strengthen the relevant penal framework.
In some cases, migrants continue to depend on criminals after they have arrived in the EU. Criminal networks can facilitate irregular residence or migratory status transition, including through the creation and use of falsified and look-alike documents. The EU legislation criminalises such facilitation of irregular stay. Migrants in an irregular situation are also more vulnerable to labour, sexual and other forms of ruthless exploitation.
To implement these strategic initiatives the commission is apparently working on an EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling.
It is envisaged that enhanced cooperation with countries of origin and transit, reinforced intelligence sharing, investigation capacities and prosecution to clamp down on migrant smuggling networks. But a strategy is only as effective as its ability to manage the next event and the quality of collaboration from EU Member States required to execute it. While politicians and others talk plenty – idle talk is neither equivalent to thinking or leading.
What initiatives is the Irish Government taking to deal with the underlying issues that are causing thousands of people to become fodder for criminals engaged in people smuggling and the threat of people smugglers becoming embedded in Irish society with dire consequences for the national interest?