Promoting safe migration; preventing smuggling of migrants

20 Jun 2018

University of Queensland’s Professor Andreas Schloenhardt will chair the Council of Europe’s new Working Group on the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants to coincide with World Refugee Day (Wednesday 20 June).

Nearly 70 million people are forcibly displaced in the world today, most of them refugees fleeing persecution in their home country.  

Professor Schloenhardt, from the TC Beirne School of Law, said while the number of refugees, along with the scale of violent conflicts in the world had risen in recent years, most destination countries, including Australia, had become increasingly reluctant to accept asylum seekers and quite hostile to the plight of refugees.

“On this World Refugee Day, we must remember that the vast majority of refugees live in developing countries that share the greatest burden of hosting those fleeing persecution, war, or violence,” he said.

“Very few asylum seekers are able to reach Western nations because of the lack of safe and regular avenues for migration and resettlement places.  

“It is for this reason that many refugees have no choice but to turn to migrant smugglers who are often the only way to escape from persecution and poverty and to reach a place of safety.”

On 20-22 June 2018, Professor Schloenhardt will take on his role as Chair of the Council of Europe’s Working Group on the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants, which will hold its inaugural meeting in Paris, France.

“The purpose of this Working Group is to explore the full spectrum of prevention of smuggling of migrants, to identify the key issues and obstacles of prevention, examine best practice models, and produce discussion papers and recommendations that can assist Member States in developing national prevention strategies and practical measures,” Professor Schloenhardt said.

“The ultimate aim of this work, is to foster cooperation to reduce the harm in irregular migration and promote safe migration.

“The Working Group will explore existing models and conceptualise new strategies that incentivise the use of safe, lawful, and efficient avenues of migration and asylum seeking, dis-incentivise the use of irregular avenues such as migrant smuggling, and sanction those who take advantage or exploit desperate migrants.

“Migrant smugglers are a symptom not the cause of irregular migration and more needs to be done to understand and address the complexities of refugee movements and enhance human mobility.”

Media: Professor Andreas Schloenhardt, or Caroline Enright,, +61 7 3365 2596.