The EU aims to tackle trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants more effectively through a Regulation on transport operators
In November 2021, the European Commission issued a proposal for a Regulation on measures against transport operators. The aim is to prevent trafficking in persons or smuggling of migrants into the territory of the European Union. On 3 February 2022, the Government submitted a communication on a European Union matter, or Union communication, concerning the proposal for a Regulation to Parliament.
The tensions that have continued since spring 2021 at the EU’s external borders with Belarus have put emphasis on hybrid influencing activities and the role of transport operators in human trafficking and smuggling of migrants on the EU agenda even more strongly than before. Transport operators can be used to carry out hybrid influencing activities. According to the Commission, certain transport operators have been contributing to — and in some cases benefiting from — smuggling and trafficking operations that have put at risk the lives of vulnerable people and the security of the EU’s external borders. The proposal for a Regulation is part of a broader EU package aimed at responding to hybrid threats.
The aim of the Regulation would be to restrict the activities of transport operators who have knowledge of the activities of an organised criminal group active in smuggling of migrants or trafficking in persons or who facilitate such activities through means of transport. The proposal applies to transport operators of any mode of transport (land, air, inland waterways and sea).
In principle, the Government is in favour of preventing or restricting the activities of transport operators that facilitate or engage in trafficking in persons or smuggling of migrants in relation to illegal entry into the territory of the European Union.
According to the Government, the measures must be proportionate. The Government considers that the Commission’s proposal includes a number of legal issues that still need to be resolved. These issues concern, among other things, the safeguarding of fundamental rights, the choice of the legal basis and the appropriateness of the implementing powers. In addition, the relationship between international, EU-level and national measures should be assessed more closely.
Government positions are described in Union communications. The Union communication will be considered by the Grand Committee, to which the relevant special committees submit their statements.
Based on currently available information, the Working Party of Foreign Relations Counsellors (RELEX) of the Council of the European Union will start the process of consideration of the proposal for a Regulation during February–March.
Krista Widerholm, Senior Officer, tel. +358 295 342 140, krista.widerholm(at)gov.fi