More than one million migrants were smuggled into Europe in 2015. This figure represents a 500 per cent increase over 2014. The flood of migrants has caused a global humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale, with 4 500 migrants reported to have died in 2015. Illegal immigrant smuggling is high on the EU agenda, and is one of the crime priorities in the EU policy cycle. Among the current initiatives are the 10-Point Action Plan of April 2015, the EU action plan against migrant smuggling (2015-2020), and Eurojust’s Thematic Group on Illegal Immigrant Smuggling. Eurojust’s casework in this field increased significantly and doubled in 2015. Nine joint investigation teams (JITs) dealing with illegal immigrant smuggling are in operation, eight of which were funded by Eurojust.
On 4 and 5 February, Eurojust held a tactical meeting, Judicial challenges arising from illegal immigrant smuggling, to address the legal, judicial, operational and practical challenges posed by this increase, to identify best practice, and to find solutions at judicial level. The meeting was chaired by Mr Cyril Lacombe, Assistant to the National Member for France, Chair of the Eurojust Thematic Group on Illegal Immigrant Smuggling, and Eurojust Contact Point for Smuggling of Migrants.
The welcome and opening remarks were given by Ms Michèle Coninsx, President of Eurojust. In attendance were prosecutors, magistrates and high-ranking police officers from the Member States, Switzerland, Norway and the USA, as well as representatives from Eurojust, Europol, Frontex, the European Commission and UNODC.
On the first day, emphasis was placed on the role of European partners in the fight against illegal immigrant smuggling: Eurojust, Frontex and Europol, and the experiences of contact points and liaison magistrates posted in the Hotspots in Italy and Greece, the front-line Member States. The second day’s focus was on three topics: information sharing and collection/admissibility of evidence, using case examples from Hungary, the Netherlands and the UK; judicial cooperation among Member States and with key third States, including Turkey; translation/interpretation issues; and opportunities offered by JITs.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ms Coninsx said, ‘Now is the right moment to hold this meeting. Illegal immigrant smuggling is by nature cross-border, and judicial cooperation is vital. Organised criminals involved in this low-risk, high-value crime must be targeted by following the financial flows, and with all the tools offered by Eurojust: coordination meetings, coordination centres, JITs, and tactical meetings such as these, which bring together practitioners from the European Union and beyond. Eurojust is also best placed to deal with national authorities in third States through its network of contact points.’
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr Lacombe said, ‘I am very impressed by the professional commitment of the participants, and also by their level of personal involvement and sympathy for the plight of these migrants. We can make a difference by seeking and employing practical solutions. The keys to success are close cooperation at national and EU level and the prompt exchange of evidence. I urge our colleagues to take advantage of the tools offered by Eurojust. Refer cases to us at the earliest possible stage, rely on the Eurojust National Desks and the Eurojust National Coordination System, and avail yourself of JIT funding opportunities.’
Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council: Ten point action plan on migration
EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling (2015 - 2020)
Eurojust’s Thematic Group on Illegal Immigrant Smuggling
Eurojust National Coordination System
Eurojust/EUNAVFOR MED Letter of Understanding
Europol’s JOT Mare