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Ireland to ‘opt-in’ to EU human trafficking regulation

Illegal entries into the EU were at their highest since 2016, rising to 380,000, the Dáil has heard.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee urged that Ireland opt-in to a new EU regulation which aims to improve police cooperation in the fight against human trafficking.

“It’s clear that smuggling to, and within, the EU is reaching new heights,” the minister said, “and it’s estimated that 90% of irregular migrants entering the EU have made use of smugglers”.

Globally, “smuggling networks generate between 4 to 6 billion euros every year,” the minister revealed.

Ireland is “committed to stepping up our fight against the criminal networks who take advantage of what is very clearly human vulnerability, in pursuit of what is very clearly just profits,” she declared.

The new directive “will step up the prevention, detection and investigation of migrant smuggling and trafficking” and will “allow EU member states to effectively prosecute organised criminal networks”.

To accomplish this, the European Centre Against Migrant Smuggling will be established at Europol, Minister McEntee said.

It will be tasked with “providing strategic analysis… monitoring trends…and identifying cases that may require advanced operational support”.

The minister said that Ireland is opting in now in order to “have a say” in how the agency is configured.

To fund the new agency, Europol will be given an additional €50m to staff about 50 additional posts over the coming three years.

The deadline to opt in is next Wednesday, 17 April.

Pa Daly, Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Justice, said that he would have liked more lead-in time to consider the regulation, but accepted that it is “an important measure”.

Smugglers “abandon the people at the first sign of trouble,” he noted.

But he cautioned: “We shouldn’t go blindly into accepting everything in this pact”.

“We have to have control over our own borders,” Deputy Daly said, and urged that the matter be debated in the Dáil.

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