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News blog20 March 2021Directorate-General for Communication

Fighting migrant smugglers: Have your say!

I want your help to fight migrant smugglers – organised criminals, exploiting dreams of a better life for financial gain, bringing suffering and death to the high seas and highways of Europe. That’s why today I am launching a public consultation to shape my upcoming action plan against migrant smuggling.

Since 2014, more than 20,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean, according to the International Organisation for Migration. We’ve all seen the terrible stories, about people suffocating in airless vans, or barely escaping with their lives.

Last year there were 124,000 irregular crossings  into Europe. That’s a fraction of the 1.8 million crossings in 2015, and in line with a downward trend.

Even so, lives are still at risk. People are taking more dangerous, more deadly routes. A record number of people crossed the Atlantic from West Africa to the Canary Islands last year: 22,600. Arrivals in the Central Mediterranean tripled when compared to 2019, to nearly 36,000.

More than 1,400 people died trying to reach Europe last year. And 290 already this year.
The number of deaths per crossing has doubled

For this, I blame the smugglers. According to Europol, up to 90 per cent of irregular arrivals involve smugglers for whole or part of the journey.  

Smugglers charge people up to 3,000 euro per person per crossing – a family’s life savings, or a crippling loan –  after telling people lies: that entry into Europe is easy and the crossing is safe.

We must now step up the fight against smuggling. Not only to prevent people undertaking dangerous journeys but also to stop organised crime.

Criminals who smuggle people, often also smuggle drugs and guns or traffic people to exploit their labour or their bodies. In my upcoming agenda to tackle organised crime, recovering criminal profits will be key – such as the more than 190 million euro made by migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean alone in just one year.

Fighting migrant smuggling is central to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which I launched last September.

We will fight smugglers by building partnerships on migration with third countries, especially our neighbours.

First, by preventing dangerous journeys. So people don’t put their lives into smugglers’ hands.

By creating economic opportunities and jobs. By investing in education and social policies.   

By expanding possibilities for regular migration. Through talent partnerships, training and mobility schemes – so people of all skill levels can contribute to Europe. Through resettlement and other legal pathways as a safe pathway to Europe for people in need of protection.

By working together to return people who do not have the right to asylum, in a humane and dignified way, and reintegrate them into society. 

Second, we must work closer with partner countries to disrupt criminal smuggling networks. Only by working together with partners, will we be able to fight smuggling effectively.

With joint investigations and common operational partnerships. Supported by Member States with staff and expertise.

By supporting border management, capacity building and training of border and coast guards.

By improving information exchange, and support from EU agencies like CEPOL, Frontex, Eurojust and Europol.

By boosting cooperation between immigration officers from the Member States and partner countries.

By supporting the launch of information campaigns on the risks of smuggling.

Last summer, I participated in the anti-smuggling conference with our African Partners and key EU Member States hosted by Italy. Since then, I have visited MauritaniaMorocco and Tunisia. I also visited the Canary Islands last November and  Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Western Balkans last February.  

Soon I will present my new EU action plan against migrant smuggling (2021-2025), to focus our approach for the next five years.

To shape our action plan, I need concrete and creative ideas, from the people who know the situation best.

People working in law enforcement, police and justice. People who work for civil society organisations and academia and in business.  

Although anyone with good ideas is welcome to contribute. 

How can we improve police cooperation, judicial cooperation and information exchange?
How do we counter smugglers on social media, on the Internet?
How can we warn people about the risks of irregular migration and raise awareness about legal migration?
How can we cooperate better with partners outside the EU to prevent and combat migrant smuggling?
And how do we protect migrants’ rights?

Because ultimately this is about protecting people. So we must not criminalise people and organisations who provide humanitarian assistance and save people’s lives.

And we must always treat people with dignity, and respect their fundamental rights. Regardless of how they enter Europe, regardless of their asylum status.

Please answer these and other questions here:


Publication date
20 March 2021
Directorate-General for Communication