Smuggling of Migrants by Sea

Smuggling of Migrants by Sea: EU Legal Framework and Future Perspective

There are many legal issues associated with the smuggling of migrants by sea from Africa to Europe. Author Matilde Ventrella has recently written a book addressing these legal issues and examining the scope of the European Union (EU) legal framework regarding this crime. Matilde Ventrella argues that the people who were smuggled by sea should have the protection of EU law as victims or potential victims of human trafficking.

Matilde Ventrella is currently a Senior Lecturer in Law at Liverpool John Moores University. She has written many reviewed articles on the topic of human trafficking and is also the author of a book titled, “The Control of People Smuggling and Trafficking in the EU: Experiences from the UK and Italy. Matilde Ventrella has experience in conducting qualitative research of people smuggling and human trafficking, which helped her in authoring this book.

The Overlap Between Smuggling Migrants and Human Trafficking

The term “smuggling migrants by sea” is used to refer to people who were smuggled by criminal organizations from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe. The European Commission has found that nearly 67% of the trafficked people can be classified as victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. A report by the European Parliament has found that smuggling and trafficking overlap because of the risk that smugglers may force migrants and refugees into exploitation; and therefore, they may become victims of human trafficking. Though smuggling and trafficking may overlap, they are actually two different crimes since individuals who are smuggled consent to doing so and put their trust in these organizations, while those trafficked do not have the choice.

Legal Framework Regarding People Smuggling and Protection for Smuggled Migrants

Under both international and European law, there are legal protections in place for smuggled migrants. The United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (UNCTOC) smuggling protocol states that state parties shall protect the right to life of smuggled people, as well as their right to not be tortured or suffer inhuman and degrading treatment. In circumstances where the people who were smuggled are not considered victims under applicable law, they may be able to receive a resident permit which can give them legal protection if they choose to testify against their traffickers. This was established by the European Convention Against Trafficking and the Trafficking Directive.

Short-Term Legal Measures Against Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants

There are currently some short-term legal measures being taken to reduce instances of human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants. Under international law, there are specific provisions regarding the smuggling of migrants by sea enacted with the UNCTOC Smuggling Protocol. This protocol establishes that all State Parties must cooperate to the fullest extent possible in order to suppress and prevent the smuggling migrants by sea. If one State Party becomes aware of a ship likely to contain migrants traveling by sea, they may request assistance by other State Parties to help suppress the vessel.

In Chapter 3 of this book, these issues are discussed in great detail. The book contains an analysis of the short-term legal measures used and discusses the impact of cooperation from different countries.

Extraterritorial Cooperation Against Smuggling and Trafficking

One way to reduce the occurrence of crimes involving smuggling migrants and human trafficking is for countries dealing with these issues to work together to enforce their laws. This book contains a chapter focusing on an analysis of the different agreements reached between the EU and Africa created to identify the root causes of irregular migration and to work together to fight against smuggling and trafficking.

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