What role for cities in terms of reception and integration of asylum seekers and refugees?
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The discovery of hundreds of people hiding in lorries has re-ignited the debate on legal pathways to Europe
Since the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry near London on 23 October, similar events have followed, revealing new routes through Europe and the increasingly risky practices of some human smugglers and traffickers.
A few days after this macabre discovery, 71 people were found alive in several lorries in Calais, in northern Belgium and at the French-Italian border. On 4 and 6 November, 57 people were found hidden in vehicle trailers in Greece and the Netherlands. In total, more than 100 migrants have been found hidden on-board trucks in recent weeks in Europe. The drivers have all been arrested, and investigations will now have to determine whether they were part of smuggling or human trafficking rings. The trial of two men involved in the case of the lorry discovered near London began on 25 November. The driver faces 39 charges, including manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic in human beings, conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration and money laundering, and an alleged accomplice is charged with trafficking in human beings.
The rise in the number of such arrests by police, particularly in northern Europe, illustrates the development of new and highly organised migration routes, making Belgium an alternative route to the United Kingdom, bypassing the recently reinforced checks in Dover and Calais. The use of lorries, in many cases refrigerated, also reveals the increasingly dangerous practices now favoured by smuggling networks to avoid detection by thermal cameras and sniffer dogs. In order to “eradicate this trafficking in human beings”, on 28 October, the British government announced an increase in the number of staff at its borders, as well as the deployment of new immigration officers to Zeebrugge in Belgium, through which the lorry that was found in Essex on 23 October transited.
According to several NGOs, this development reflects the failure of European asylum policy, which has not managed to establish safe and legal pathways to Europe and has thus contributed to the development of human trafficking networks. The director of the British branch of ECPAT, an NGO which fights against the exploitation of children, stated that “this case [of 23 October] is a tragic example of the risks facing individuals who cannot migrate in a safe and legal way”.
This text includes and updates the article published in French in “Veille Europe” of 1-15 October.