Migrant crisis: What to do about gangs of smugglers?

How to address the problem with gangs of human smugglers. How important is to solve (and how to solve) this issue in the framework of what should the EU do regarding migrant crisis? Read few comments.

Matilde Ventrella, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Wolverhampton

In terms of human trafficking, the crime can either have a trans-national dimension or it can be committed entirely on the territory of one nation against its nationals or migrants, mainly irregular migrants because they are more vulnerable.  If the crime has a trans-national dimension, it is perpetrated in different States and it requires international investigative cooperation to be fought against.  Migrants who are desperately trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, are certainly victims of gangsters who exploit their vulnerability and recruit them since they start their dangerous trips from their countries of origin.  Gangsters take an advantage of their desperate situation and ask them to repay very high price for their trip which, often migrants cannot afford.  Syrians might be able to afford the price for the journey as these people are from the middle class and they are forced to leave their houses because of war.  People coming from Sub-Sahara Africa normally cannot afford the cost of their journey and they have to repay it by working in very poor conditions in the countries they cross before they reach the Turkish or Lybian borders.  They are tortured, raped and enslaved, in order to be able to reach Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.  These people are so desperate that they accept to be enslaved as they see their trip to Europe as the only hope for a better life.  However, when they eventually reach the Italian or the Greek territories, many of them are able to escape from controls and they disappear.  Some of them travel to Northern Europe but there are not news about the majority of them.  This is because they become victims of traffickers based in Europe and they are enslaved by these criminal groups.  Since EU Member States have adopted restrictive policies on irregular migration, the crime of human trafficking perpetrated within their territories has increased and they are not tackling it seriously neither transitionally nor domestically.  However, I deeply believe that there are thousand of irregular migrants who live in EU Member States in a state of hiding and they are victims of human traffickers as they really do not have alternatives because of their state of clandestinity.  The EU has adopted different laws to tackle trafficking in human beings but Member States are neglecting them as their sole concern seems to be fighting against irregular migration.  They miss to understand that irregular migration can be resolved by addressing human trafficking and they are not doing this.

EU can resolve migrant crisis by adopting a multifaced approach.  All migrants who arrive to Europe by sea cannot really be returned to their countries of origin.  This is partly because most of them are entitled to the status of refugee as they come from areas where there is war.  The other reason is because all the other migrants escaping their countries for economic reasons are trapped by poverty.  Therefore, when they will return to their countries of origin, they will try to escape again and they will risk their lives again and many of them will die.  Can the EU return these migrants despite they are aware of this situation?  In addition, what about countries which do not accept their citizens back?  These migrants cannot be returned.  Therefore, in the short-term, Member States should apply the Directive on temporary protection for humanitarian reasons, adopted in 2001 but never applied.  In the long term, the EU should cooperate with African Union to fight against traffickers based in different African countries and to support economic developments in the areas where there is poverty.  Strengthening EU external relations with the aim to fight against human trafficking and to create economic opportunities in Africa, is necessary and it is the only way to overcome the migrant crisis.

Ioannis MichaletosPolitical & Security Analyst, Associate at Institute for Security and Defence Analysis

First of all it is spreading fast and day by day more criminal gangs are been involved making it more difficult of being addressed. These networks are transnational, well organized, with plenty of resources and are in most cases linked with other illegal sectors, most imporantly drugs and counterfeit products contraband. In sort we can talk of mafia-type organization spreading from Afghanistan to North Africa and in most European cities.

Thus in order to confront them there is needs first of all of:

– Reliable information which can be achieved by the use of intelligence services and cooperation between those of the EU countries

-Specialization, training and political will to mobilize the Police forces against this specific illegal industry

– Combat against the “Hawala” system which plays a vital role in this industry

– Enlightenment of the public and the immigrant community and/or prospecive immigrants so as to know of the risks involved

– Apply of political pressure in countries were these networks have indirect or in some cases direct support from state structures

For the moment in almost all cases EU countries manage to arrest only small-level smugglers,such as drivers, but there is no real combat of the problem regarding the top hierarchy of the smuggling business

Roxana Barbulescu, ‎Research Fellow, ESRC Centre for Population Change University of Southampton

The matter of how to stop smugglers from sending people on these dangerous trips while making fortunes in this crisis is complex because they activate in more than one countries. EU leaders have already taken action and there is strong consensus amongst the member states in tackling this the phenomenon. However, what readers have to understand is that this is a demand-supply problem. As long as asylum seekers fear for their lives and do not have a legal way of accessing asylum in Europe, they have no one else to turn to but smugglers. If they would have other options to seek asylum in Europe, than they would not use expensive smugglers who embark them on dangerous trips.


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