Regarding the discussions amongst EU Interior Ministers on migrant smuggling, Labour MEPs believe that it is important that EU legislation does not seek to criminalise the important work of civil society in providing much need humanitarian assistance particularly given the sharp increase in unaccompanied minors that have arrived in Europe who are in clear need of international protection.
Recent figures of the EU's intelligence service (EUROPOL) have indicated that 10,000 refugee children have gone missing since arriving in Europe. This figure will continue to increase unless urgent action is taken by Member States, criminalising the work of NGOs and civil society will simply enhance the vulnerability of these groups and not address the problem.
The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee, chaired by Labour MEP Claude Moraes, recently commissioned a study on the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance which also highlighted the urgent need to enhance legal certainty and clarity in EU legislation in order to reduce pressures faced by civil society and NGOs in offering humanitarian assistance to migrants.
It is clear that Member States could and should do more in providing vital humanitarian assistance and protect vulnerable groups from being exploited to criminal networks. At present, the European Commission is preparing proposals which will be presented at the end of the year on the issue of migrant smuggling. As co-legislator, the European Parliament will shape the content of these proposals and ensure that they remain in line with international conventions which give a clear distinction between "smuggling" and "trafficking". Furthermore, Labour MEPs will continue to apply pressure on Member States, including the UK government, to provide an organised and compassionate response to the biggest refugee crisis since World War two.