Beyond Networks, Militias, and Tribes: Rethinking the EU’s Counter-Smuggling Policy and Response

25 May 2021. From 11:00  To 12:30 | Webinar | English | Online
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With the announcement of the new migra­tion package together with a new Se­curity Union Strategy in 2020, and the recent release of the European Union (EU) Action Plan against mi­grant smuggling (2021-2025) – both in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic – there is momentum to reflect cri­tically on the actions and instruments the EU has deployed to counter mi­grant smuggling in the Mediterranean and beyond, and to propose what should be done differently under the forthcoming term. 

This webinar introduces EuroMesCo’s recent policy study Beyond Networks, Militias and Tribes: rethinking EU Counter-Smuggling Policy and Response. The study acknowledges the EU’s counter-smug­gling strategy as an essential component of EU migration manage­ment discourse, policy and response. The strategy’s results have often been showcased as a sign of the strong collaborative ties between the EU and countries in North Africa and the Sahel. However, the strategy itself has raised significant questioning. Its strong focus on the Libyan case left examinations into smuggling dynamics in other regions like Algeria or the Canary Islands virtually untouched. It has also lacked inputs from third countries as well as their academic and policy voices (including those of junior and female researchers). The criminalisation under the migrant smuggling rubric of long-standing transportation and trade practices – in the process disturbing local, tribal economies – is believed to have furthered the marginalization of already precarious settings. The reliance on migrant returns, incarceration and detention practices, combined with the high death rate in the Mediterranean, all have raised questions over the human right implications of the strategy. Furthermore, the focus on dismantling smug­gling operations has also been criticised for the way it deflects atten­tion from the reason at the core of the demand for smuggling services – the reduced availability of safe, orderly and regular paths for migration as outlined in the Global Compact for Migration. 

The event presents the results of the EuroMeSCo Policy Study “Beyond Networks, Militias, and Tribes: Rethinking EU Counter-Smuggling Policy and Response” carried out in the framework of the EuroMeSCo: Connecting the Dots project, co-funded by the EU and the IEMed. The project contributes to inclusive and evidence-based policymaking by fostering research and recommendations in relation with the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) South priorities, with focus on economic development, migration, and security. The project aims to connect the dots among diverse stakeholders as well as among the EU, its Southern Neighbours, and the wider region. It develops a wide range of research, dialogue, and dissemination activities. 



Gabriella Sanchez

Research Fellow MPC, European University Institute

Luigi Achilli

Associate Researcher MPC

Matteo Capasso

Research Fellow European University Institute

Kheira Arrouche

PhD University of Leeds

Ahlam Chemlali

PhD Candidate DIIS

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