Seanad debates

Thursday, 11 April 2024

EU Regulations (Police Co-operation on Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings): Motion


9:30 am

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister back to the House and congratulate her on her reappointment to her role. Her voice is causing a bit of difficulty today. I am not going to repeat everything in my briefing notes, much of which was outlined in the Minister's speech and in Senator Ward's contribution. Indeed even Senator Keogan is on the same side on this one so we seem to have relative unanimity without wanting to pre-empt Senators Warfield's and O'Reilly's contributions.

It is important that we make a few points on this. On my own behalf and on behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, we welcome this debate and support the motion. Migrant smuggling is a criminal activity. It disrespects human life and strips people of dignity in the pursuit of profit. Fighting and preventing migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings is one of the priorities of the EU and crucial to addressing irregular migration in a comprehensive way. Migrants' movement is big business. There is no doubt about that. A lot of money is being made by people in this. That is then going on to fund other activities in terms of maybe arms, drugs and so on. Therefore fighting and preventing migrants from moving is one of the priorities of the European Union and is essential to dismantling organised crime networks that cause human rights violations and countering the increase in irregular migration to the EU.

This proposal is part of a package of wider measures put forward by the Commission to modernise the legal framework. What we are doing is technical in nature, ensuring and codifying that we are co-operating with other police forces throughout Europe. The proposed regulation will enforce Europol's role and interagency co-operation in the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking.

It is important that we acknowledge that in 2022 approximately - of course, we do not know how many and this is only an estimate - 331,000 irregular entries were detected. That number was detected, although we do not know how many were not detected, at the EU external borders. That is the highest level since 2016, representing a 66% increase on the previous year, 2021. From January to September 2023, approximately 281,000 irregular border crossings were detected at the external borders of the EU, representing an 18% increase on the previous year.

It is estimated that the activities of ruthless migrant smugglers, especially at sea, resulted in a staggering death toll of 28,000 people since 2014. About half of the migrant smuggling networks are also involved in other crimes such as trafficking in drugs, firearms smuggling and facilitating other unauthorised movements within the EU. If anything, this perhaps does not go as far as we might like it to go. However, it is a good step along the way towards reducing the activity of migrant smuggling groups, of ensuring that Ireland is not seen as a soft touch and that ideally people realise this is not a place to send them.

For every aircraft that lands in Dublin Airport and in any of our airports, the airlines know the nationality or suggested nationality of everybody on that aeroplane. Obviously, anybody who is a British national, an Irish national or a national of any other EU member state is entitled to be here. We know that. However, if aircraft are landing here with people from other countries with a lot of documentation, maybe we should be meeting them at the door because we have evidence that people have passports, which are fake documents that are provided to them, and that the documents are left on the aeroplane or are possibly sent back with one of the smugglers or people involved with the smuggling. The people arrive in with no papers. They could not have got on the aeroplane without papers but they get off the aeroplane without papers. We need to tackle that at the door of the aircraft. Aircraft are landing here on which potentially there are people with fake documents. We need to tackle them and tell people they are not getting off the aeroplane and that they are going back to where they came from. We cannot allow a situation where we are seen as a soft touch.

I am not saying that is the case but certainly we know of situations where people are getting on aeroplanes with documents and by the time they get here they have lost them. They are gaming the system. They are actually depriving support to those who are in genuine need of it because they are clogging up the system. I would like to hear the Minister's response to that, that is, that we tackle those particular aircraft. If we do so, then people who should not be travelling here will not do so. People in genuine need of support will have documents and will often be entitled to protection here but many others are just gaming the system and we cannot allow that to continue. Therefore, I support the motion and the debate this afternoon.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.