human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Regular pathways needed to counter smuggling

Contribution to the European Commission's consultation

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Caritas Europa contributed to the public consultation carried out by the European Commission ahead of the launch of the EU action plan against migrant smuggling (2021-2025) that was announced when presenting the EU Pact on migration and asylum on 23 September 2020.

In its contribution, Caritas highlights that the protection of migrants’ rights and expanding regular migratory pathways must be central elements in the new action plan, which should be anchored in evidence-based policies. These are some of the key messages we convey in our input:

  • Due to the enhanced securitisation of borders and the lack of regular mobility pathways, many people are forced to resort to smugglers and risk their lives to flee conflict or violence, reunite with family members or seek livelihood opportunities. It is therefore key to expand safe and regular mobility pathways such as resettlement, humanitarian visas, family reunification, work permit, etc. in order to tackle human smuggling.
  • Partnerships with third countries must not predominantly focus on the fight against smuggling, the prevention of migration and return. Instead, balanced mobility partnerships with third countries that expand regular pathways for migration must be developed.
  • People embarking on irregular journeys should never be criminalised. Regardless of the administrative status, people’s human rights should be protected, and the “firewall principle”-which distinguishes between basic services providers and law enforcement authorities- should be applied. Migrants involved in judicial proceedings against smugglers, traffickers or exploitative employers should be protected (e.g. with a residence status.)
  • The fight against smuggling can never justify illegal and violent activities, including pushbacks, by EU and national border and coast guard authorities; allegation of wrongdoings must be investigated and prosecuted.
  • There is no link between smuggling activities and search and rescue (SAR) at sea, therefore the fight against smuggling can never be used to clamp down on SAR. The right to life must always prevail over security considerations. The action plan should clearly disentangle solidarity and humanitarian actions from smuggling and call on Member States not to criminalise or undermine solidarity.