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Proposal for a comprehensive plan to combat illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings

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Proposal for a comprehensive plan to combat illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings

The action plan for preventing and combating illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings in the European Union aims to define a common and integrated approach. It provides for measures and actions to be adopted and implemented in seven areas: visa policy, information exchange, readmission and return policy, border management, pre-frontier measures, Europol and penalties.


Proposal for a comprehensive plan to combat illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings in the European Union [Official Journal C 142 of 14.06.2002].



The prevention of and the fight against illegal immigration are essential parts of the common asylum and immigration policy of the European Union (EU). The Vienna Action Plan underlined the need for more effective combating of illegal immigration. At its summit in Tampere (October 1999), the European Council emphasised the need for more efficient management of migration flows at all stages and the need to tackle illegal immigration at its source. In November 2001 the Commission adopted a communication on a common policy on illegal immigration. In addition to improvements in the exchange of information and statistics, it provides for stepping up the fight against trafficking in human beings and economic exploitation of migrants as well as cooperation with countries of origin and the establishment of a coherent common policy on readmission and return. The European Council, meeting in Laeken on 14 and 15 December 2001, called for an action plan to be developed on the basis of the Commission communication on illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings. The plan was adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council of 28 February 2002.

Dimensions of the phenomenon

Illegal immigration overall involves different categories as regards the people concerned and the different networks through which they pass before arriving and remaining illegally in the EU. The people involved are mainly:

  • those who illegally enter the territory of a Member State either with no documents at all or by using false or forged documents;
  • those who have entered with a valid visa or residence permit but have "overstayed";
  • those whose legal residence becomes illegal when they take up employed activity;
  • those with a residence and work permit who overstay their period of legal residence or violate residence regulations in other ways.

International obligations and human rights

The fight against illegal immigration has to strike a balance between the decision whether or not to allow third-country nationals into the EU and the obligation to protect those genuinely in need of international protection (arising from the European Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Convention on Refugees). Whatever measures are put into practice must therefore allow Member States to offer rapid access to protection so that refugees do not need to resort to illegal immigration.

Relations with third countries

Measures to combat illegal immigration must be implemented at the beginning of the migration chain, i.e. through the promotion of peace, political stability, human rights, democratic principles and sustainable economic, social and environmental development of the countries of origin. To that end, migration issues should be tackled within existing partnerships. With a view to enlargement, applicant countries must incorporate the existing EU acquis on the fight against illegal immigration in their domestic legislation and practices. Cooperation should also be further developed with transit countries to help them to tackle the problem of gaps at border controls. It is also important for the European Union and its Member States to continue to participate actively in other international fora and to conclude multilateral agreements in this area.

Visa policies

Whilst facilitating the free movement of persons, visa policy can also significantly contribute to the prevention of illegal immigration. A future harmonised visa policy in this area would make it possible to prevent the entry of non-authorised persons into the territory of the Member States. It would comprise:

  • uniform visa standards to improve the security afforded by a visa and residence permit by using new technologies, possibly including the applicant's biometric data;
  • the creation of common administrative structures to strengthen cooperation between EU consulates in third countries (establishment of common EU visa issuing offices, mutual assistance in training);
  • development of a European Visa Identification System using the possibilities of modern communication and computer technology and to set up a common visa identification system.

Information exchange and analysis

  • statistics: measures to provide Member States with statistical data reliable enough to analyse at regular intervals both legal migratory flows and illegal immigration;
  • gathering information, intelligence and analysis: improvement of the exchange of statistical information, feasibility study with a view to developing a European system for exchanging information on asylum, migration and countries of origin;
  • development of the Early Warning System: improvement of the administrative and technical infrastructure of the existing system, conversion of the present system to a web-based secure intranet site.

Pre-frontier measures

  • advice and support by liaison officers: building up of the network of immigration and airline liaison officers (exchange of information, common training, drafting of joint reports);
  • technical and financial support for actions in third countries: implementation of the action plans prepared by the High-Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration;
  • awareness-raising campaigns: actions in countries of origin aimed at halting illegal immigration.
  • Measures relating to border management
  • border management in a common area: implementation of a risk-assessment system;
  • controls at sea borders: feasibility study to see how these controls can be improved;
  • common curriculum and training: harmonisation of the training of border guards, consideration of how the European Police College (CEPOL) can contribute, establishment of a network of existing national training facilities;
  • border management, cooperation and performance by joint teams: feasibility study on a common external border unit, strengthening of cooperation among the Member States' operational services.

Readmission and return policy

  • establishment of a joint approach/cooperation between the Member States for the purposes of implementing return measures: improvement of administrative cooperation among Member States, analysis of actions and measures on the basis of the Commission's Green Paper on return policy (e.g. establishment of a financial instrument);
  • readmission agreements: negotiation and conclusion of new readmission agreements and adoption of joint measures to ensure that countries fulfil their obligation to readmit their own nationals in accordance with the rules already established under international law;
  • transit of returnees: establishment of rules on transit of returnees (at EU level as well as with third countries);
  • common standards for return procedures: establishment of common standards for return procedures.


Article 30 of the Treaty on European Union should be fully utilised to give Europol the powers to work together with the competent authorities of Member States on the trafficking or smuggling of human beings, to support the Member States and to contribute to the collation of information held by law enforcement agencies.


  • smuggling of human beings: implementation of new Community instruments in the field;
  • trafficking of human beings: clarification of the status of the victims of trafficking to determine whether they can be given benefits or special assistance;
  • illegal employment: study of Member States' legislation on illegal employment;
  • illegal immigration and financial benefits: adoption and application of measures on the confiscation of all financial gains from criminal activities relating to illegal immigration and confiscation of the means of transport used;
  • carrier liability: follow-up of transposal and implementation of the directive on carrier liability.

Evaluation of the plan

  • In order to ensure the effectiveness of the comprehensive plan to combat illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings, the European Commission must draw up an annual monitoring and appraisal report to be submitted to the Council.


Council Decision 2005/267/EC of 16 March 2005 establishing a secure web-based Information and Coordination Network for Member States' Migration Management Services [Official Journal L 83 of 01.04.2005].

As provided for in the comprehensive plan to combat illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings of 28 February 2002, this decision establishes a secure web-based information and coordination network for the exchange of information on irregular migration, illegal entry and immigration, and the return of illegal residents in order to step up the fight against illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings. The elements for information exchange must include at least the following: early warning system on illegal immigration and facilitator networks; network of immigration liaison officers; information on the use of visas and border and travel documents in relation to illegal immigration; return-related issues. The Commission is responsible for setting up and managing the network and deciding its structure and content and the elements for information exchange. The Commission is to be assisted by the "ARGO" Committee.

Last updated: 27.07.2007