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The new EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling: between politics and evidence

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Academic input into EC Consultations


The upcoming EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling 2021-2025, like its predecessor, suggests that the fight against migrant smuggling will continue to be at the centre of a comprehensive European approach to migration management. The plan defines migrant smugglers as ‘ruthless criminals’; however, what do we know about migrant smugglers? The growing empiric research challenges widespread assumptions concerning the high level of the criminal organisation along the route and shows that the market is fragmented and self-organised journeys are rising.


The plan aims at preventing irregular migration while simultaneously halting transnational organised criminality. However, there is an inherent tension between migration management and criminal justice approaches.  Data gathered by academia and civil society indicates that most of those convicted for migrant smuggling and/or labelled as smugglers are actors operating without criminal intention and mostly in response to the lack of accessible legal pathways to migration, rather than members of the so-called transnational organised crime involved in other crimes (see for instance, the Special Issue of the European Journal of the Criminal Policy and Research). Thus, is it practical to keep EU’s definition of the crime of facilitation sufficiently broad to capture various legitimate civil society and economic activities? Do new EU guidelines aim to exempt from the scope of criminalisation the acts ‘mandated by law’, are sufficient to prevent such risks? Whether there is any evidence to support the assumption that the return operations discourage migrant smuggling?   


This webinar provides a collective opportunity to rethink how migrant smuggling is framed in the new EU Action Plan (2021-2025).  It gathers perspectives from academia, civil society and policy-makers and raises concerns over the long-term implications for migrants, communities in countries of origin and transit, as well as, civil society and law enforcement within the EU.

May 10th, 2021 12:00 PM   through   1:30 PM
CEPS (online),
Place du Congrès 1,
1000 Brussels,
Phone: +32 2 2293911
Event Info
Meeting ref
Responsible Ms. Lina Vosyliute
Secretary Ms. Anne-Marie Boudou

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