Since the arrival of migrants to Italy skyrocketed in September, pushing its attention span to the limit, the European Commission has toughened its stance on irregular migration and is preparing to take measures to stop it. This Tuesday, Brussels proposed strengthening the legal framework of the European Union (EU) to combat migrant trafficking, which it blames for the more than 24,000 deaths and disappearances that have occurred in the Mediterranean since 2014. The Community Executive’s plan passes for greater prosecution of these crimes and the increase in prison sentences in cases in which people die, which will rise to fifteen years in prison, compared to the current eight.
The proposal, which must be debated by the Twenty-Seven and the European Parliament before its final adoption, also proposes that the jurisdiction of the Member States also apply in cases where ships sink in international waters. In this way, “the aim is to specifically pursue migrant smuggling networks” and it is emphasized that the activity of NGOs that carry out the search and rescue of migrants “should not be criminalized under any circumstances,” explains the directive.
“It’s about putting the focus where it should be: punishing the mafias, never the migrants,” summarized Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson. In this crusade against groups dedicated to foreign trafficking, it is essential to “strengthen the capabilities and resources of European countries.” Brussels urges giving national authorities the necessary resources to ensure the effective prevention, investigation and prosecution of these illegal activities. In parallel, the community institution is committed to data collection and the exchange of information between Member States, as well as harmonizing their regulations, to improve the fight against these gangs.
The role of Europol
To facilitate the prosecution of these activities, Brussels proposes to define more clearly within the EU smuggling crimes that can cause serious harm to a person. Another issue that the European Commission is focusing on is reinforcing the role of Europol, with advanced coordination and analysis tools, which could be of help to the countries of the Union.
The arrival of thousands of migrants collapsed the island of Lampedusa.
Brussels proposed a plan to confront the situation in Italy, but assured that migration is “a European issue.”
The latest attack in the Belgian capital made the Twenty-seven and Brussels toughen their immigration discourse.
The directive presented this Tuesday is part of the actions proposed by Brussels to stop irregular arrivals to the EU, at a time when instability threatens a new wave of migrants. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) warned in September of “a strong increase” in illegal entries to the continent between January and July of this year. Migration through the central Mediterranean and the Balkan route, two of the deadliest on the way to disembark in Europe, especially increased.
The shift in the bloc’s countries has also been important, with the proliferation of anti-immigration discourses in nations such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy, among others. The attack that took place last October in Belgium – in which a Tunisian residing irregularly in the country killed two Swedish citizens – has also served the Union to harden its stance on this issue, out of fear to the so-called ‘lone wolves’.
The Pact on Migration and Asylum, still under negotiation, contemplates expediting the returns of those who do not comply with the requirements
The future Pact on Migration and Asylum, which continues to be negotiated between the Twenty-seven and the community institutions, includes the right of EU countries to expel from their territory people considered “dangerous to national security.” It is also committed to agreements with third countries to stop irregular arrivals, solidarity contributions to those Member States that host the most refugees and accelerate the return process of those who do not meet the requirements to request asylum in the bloc.
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