A European Parliament study “Fit for purpose? The Facilitation Directive and the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants’” finds the EU legal framework on smuggling bears inconsistencies with international law and negatively impacts Irregular migrants as well as those providing assistance to them.

The study finds the European legal framework on smuggling (Facilitation Directive 2002/90/EC, Framework Decision 2002/946/JHA and 2015 -2020 EU Action Plan against Migrant Smuggling) lacks coherence with international law as it is more restrictive than the UN Smuggling Protocol, most importantly in regard to the inclusion to penalties of those providing humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants. Based on primary evidence from an online survey, the study further finds that the Facilitation Directive negatively impacts irregular migrants and those who assist them. This is illustrated in civil society organisations’ working with irregular migrants experiencing intimidation and fear of sanctions as well as the lack of EU funding to projects providing humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants and confusion on implementation of the Directive limiting access to vital services. The study warns that this negatively affects “social trust and cohesion for society as a whole.”

The study concludes with four recommendations. It stresses the importance of aligning the EU legal framework with international, regional and EU human rights standards, especially in regard to the protection of smuggled migrants and  persons providing ‘humanitarian assistance’. It further recommends that Member States should be obliged to monitor and evaluate the enforcement of the Facilitation package, making available EU funding for civil society organisations and cities working with irregular migrants and the introduction of safeguards for irregular migrants to access basic services and allow them to report human rights abuses.

The finding of the study on the Facilitation directive affecting social trust and cohesion for society as a whole is underlined by Jennifer Allsopp, Co–Author of the study. She stated: “The deterrent effect of the EU Facilitation Directive and its impact on civil society must be taken seriously.”

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