On 16 September 2020, the Austrian police arrested a 51-year-old Turkish citizen residing in Romania who was transporting 38 Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish migrants in a refrigerated lorry. The lorry had been stopped 30 km from the border with Hungary. The migrants stated that they had each paid up to EUR 8 000 euros to cross the border illegally into Austria.
Tens of thousands of irregular migrants from the Maghreb, Syria, Africa and Afghanistan cross the Balkan countries, especially Romania, in the hope of finding a way into the Schengen area, despite the alleged closure of the ‘Balkan route’ in March 2016.
The Commission’s report of 3 December 2018 states that: ‘Countering the culture of impunity and preventing trafficking in human beings are the Commission’s key priorities according to its 2017 Communication’.
24 September 2020, French Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Thierry Mariani of the Identity and Democracy political Group posed a parliamentary written question to the European Commission. MEP Mariani asked the Commission “what specific measures in the Commission taking to combat people-trafficking networks in Romania?”
On 01 December 2020, Commissioner Ylva Johansson, responsible for Home Affairs, responded on behalf of the European Commission. Commissioner Johansson declared “we understand that the question of the Honourable Member refers to a smuggling of migrants’ incident” and “smuggling is a criminal activity that affects significantly on the EU’s humanitarian and migration management objectives”. She reported that “the new Pact on Migration and Asylum announced a new EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling (2021-2025), to be adopted in the first quarter of 2021 to strengthen operational information exchange and cooperation among EU law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute migrant smuggling networks”.
Commissioner Johansson stated that “the Commission and the EU agencies have consistently put in place measures and tools to fight this type of transnational and cross-border crime, including with the participation of Member States like Romania” and “the Commission supports the fight against migrant smuggling networks in Romania and along the Western Balkan route”. The Commissioner confirmed that the Commission “supports the priority of the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT/Europol) on the ‘Facilitation of Illegal Immigration’” and “also finances the Joint Operational Office in Vienna, which serves as a regional Western Balkans platform for international investigations into migrant-smuggling organised crime groups”.
In the end, Commissioner Johansson stated that “an operational Task Force for the Western Balkans was set up to intensify operational cooperation between EU agencies and participating the Member States, including Romania” and “Romanian judicial and law enforcement authorities regularly participate in Europol’s Joint Investigation Teams and Operational Task Forces aimed at dismantling migrant-smuggling criminal organisations, as well as in Joint Operations organised by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency”.
Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Romania