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At its today’s sitting, the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) approved Estonia’s positions on two proposals dealing with migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings.

Chair of the European Union Affairs Committee Liisa Pakosta pointed out that migrant smuggling had become a weapon, which was also used by Russia. “It is necessary to respond to sending migrants to Europe, and to update the minimum penal standards related to this,” she said. “Illegal border crossings of migrants have already increased rapidly by a fifth, and it is estimated that criminals earn 6 billion euros a year from smuggling people into Europe. By now, not just the Mediterranean countries are in trouble, but our region too, because of the migrants sent here from Russia and Belarus,” Pakosta explained.

Pakosta underlined that strengthening Europol was important also in order to fight against violations of the sanctions imposed against Russia. “We unanimously gave Europol permission to deal with this new issue as well. At the same time Member States must retain the right to define their penal policy themselves,” the Chair of the European Union Affairs Committee added. Pakosta said that the limitation periods set out in the directive were incompatible with our Penal Code, and we also stood for greater freedom of speech in regard to inciting migrant smuggling. “According to the current wording, it could also be possible to punish those who ask that refugees were accepted in another country for humanitarian reasons. This causes a conflict with freedom of speech, so the directive needs further work.”

Deputy Chairman of the Committee Enn Eesmaa also admitted that it was necessary to make a clear distinction between a third country urging refugees to cross the border to another country to cause disturbances, and asking to accept those in need. “It is critical to draw this clear line between criminal activities and freedom of speech, and to ensure that those who act for humanitarian reasons are not punished,” Eesmaa said.

The European Union Affairs Committee also discussed the proposal for a regulation on reinforcing Europol’s resources to strengthen fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings. The aim of the proposal is having a closer cooperation between countries to catch cross-border networks and to prevent their activities across the EU. It was pointed out that the number of cases of migrant smuggling had increased, but if more networks were caught and the illegal money was seized, it would help reduce crime.

The European Union Affairs Committee decided to approve Estonia’s positions on both proposals. As regards the proposal on preventing and countering unauthorised entry into the Union, the Committee approved the positions with amendment, as Estonia understands the objectives of the proposal but finds that it is necessary to amend the directive.

The proposal on preventing unauthorised entry into the Union was presented by Adviser at the Department of Criminal Law and Procedure of the Criminal Policy Division of the Ministry of Justice Markko Künnapu. Adviser of the Ministry of the Interior Liina Pello gave an overview of the proposal on reinforcing Europol.

For more information, please contact: Liisa Pakosta, phone +372 502 6191

Riigikogu Press Service
Merilin Kruuse
+372 631 6592; +372 510 6179
[email protected]
Questions: [email protected]