European Conference to promote the multidisciplinary approach in addressing migrant smuggling

Remarks Minister Ard van der Steur, European Conference to promote the multidisciplinary approach in addressing migrant smuggling, 12-01-2016, Amsterdam.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Netherlands;

Welcome to Amsterdam;

And welcome to this European Conference!

The central element today is the multidisciplinary approach in our fight against migrant smuggling. And let me be clear:

This fight is becoming more urgent every day.

We have all seen the images of millions of women, men and children fleeing their home countries, often in deplorable conditions. In 2015 more than one million irregular migrants have entered the EU. Most of them with help of migrant smugglers:

Ruthless criminal networks who organize the migrants’ journeys;

Who take advantage of their dreams, their hopes and their ambitions;

And who seek nothing but profit.

They sell a service they know they cannot deliver:A safe trip to a promised land.

Instead, thousands of migrants have died while trying to reach Europe. On the Mediterranean Sea, because their boats sank. On our highways, because their trucks were crammed with so many people there wasn’t enough room to breathe. Or on the side of the road, while trying to cross a border illegally.

The International Organization for Migration calculated a number of over 3.500 fatalities in the year 2015. The harsh truth is that we don’t even know the exact number. Knowing all this misery and all this grief is caused by criminals, just to make a living for themselves, is a horrible thought.

And that is why should work together. That is why we should strengthen our networks. And that is why we should find new ways to stop these atrocities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to stress that we are not empty-handed. In fact, we have already started. Addressing migrant smuggling is a top priority in both the European Agenda on Migration and in the European Agenda on Security. And with the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling the European Commission formulated a number of concrete actions to better address this crime.

But, this does not mean we are already there. What looks good on paper should also be implemented in practice. And that is why a conference like this is so important. On behalf of the Netherlands, I am honored to host this event, together with the European Commission, the Migration Network. During these two days, experts from different fields and from all over the EU discuss the scale and nature of migrant smuggling.

Here, we share knowledge and experiences. Here, we bring specialists together, so they are able to find each other more easily in future. And here, we discuss the role of all relevant partners, including the private sector and NGO’s.

One thing is clear for me: We can only address migrant smuggling effectively through a multidisciplinary approach. We can’t limit ourselves to law enforcement and criminal justice authorities only. We should use the force of our governments, or societies and our international organizations. From tax authorities to border guards. From local administrative authorities to immigration services. And from the Chambers of Commerce to Customs.

The fight against migrant smuggling is a joint effort. Only by sharing information at an early stage, crime patterns become visible. This helps us to gain a fuller understanding of the scope, methods and composition of these ruthless criminal organizations. Only by working together we can decide which actions must be undertaken and by whom. This helps us to hinder the criminal activities and to dismantle the criminal organization. And only by multidisciplinary cooperation, we can follow the money of these networks. This helps us to gather evidence, map their organizations, and recover criminal assets.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the next months and years, we have to invest in improving our relations with countries of origin and countries of transit. By making clear agreements about who is allowed to pass and who must be send back. We need more and better relief and reception facilities in safe countries in the region. So migrants who need help do not have to travel through entire continents to find protection and a perspective for the future. And we also have to unite behind a clear strategy to tackle the root causes of migration. That is how the business model of migrant smuggling will come to an end. That is how the complicated challenge of the current migration crises can be met. And that is how the ruthless exploitation of migrants and refugees will stop.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe that the conclusions of this conference could be of immense value to the current debate on the migrant crisis in the EU, in particular migrant smuggling. And it is with great pleasure to bring together so many relevant actors in this field. I believe this is vital to the success of the conference.

Thank you very much!