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Avoiding the risks

On these page you will find information on what human trafficking and smuggling are, how the EU works to prevent these crimes, punish the offenders and protect the victims.

You will also find out how the EU deals with children from outside the EU who travel alone to EU countries.

You will also find information on staying in an EU Country without permission and on returning to your own country.

Human Trafficking

For information on what human trafficking is and what the EU is doing for addressing it, please visit the website Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Migrant SmugglingHuman Smuggling

What is migrant smuggling?

People are smuggled into an EU country when they are helped to enter the country without authorisation. This normally happens by getting help to evade border controls or by getting false or fake travel or identity documents, which can lead to hazardous and dangerous situations for those being smuggled.

Preventing Migrant Smuggling

What do EU countries do to prevent migrant smuggling?

EU countries are improving border controls to ensure a smooth passage for those who visit a country legally while better detecting illegal activities and preventing irregular entries. EU countries are also including so called biometric elements – such as face recognition – in their citizens’ passports and travel documents aimed at preventing and fighting fraudulent activities. EU Agencies support Member States, for instance the European Border and Coast Guard Agency support Member States in border management, while Europol's European Migrant Smuggling Centre support Member States in fighting this form of cross-border crime.

Measures are also in place to punish migrant smugglers.

How are smugglers punished?

There are EU-wide laws for penalties for convicted smugglers in 26 EU countries, excluding Denmark who has decided not to participate.

Under these laws, convicted smugglers can be:

  • Imprisoned, in cases where the smuggler has received financial benefits;
  • Removed from an EU country;
  • Banned from carrying out the job they were doing at the time of the offence.

Any vehicle used for the offence can be confiscated. On top of the EU-wide rules, individual EU countries may also have additional penalties for convicted smugglers.

What risks could I face if I am smuggled into an EU country?

If you are smuggled into an EU country, you will not have the right to be there.

You may have to pay fines and may be returned to your home country. Each EU country sets its own penalties for unauthorised entry or stay.

If you are staying in the EU without permission, you may also face difficulties in getting a job, a place to live and accessing education and health care. This could lead to further risks and possible exploitation.

How do I avoid these risks?

You should be very careful before accepting a promise of entry into an EU country, as this could be a sign that an illegal migrant smuggling network is at work.

You should instead contact your diplomatic or consular authorities about how to legally enter an EU country, either for short-term or long-term stays.

More on how to legally enter the EU

Is there any support available for me if I have been smuggled into an EU country?

Non-EU citizens who have been smuggled into the EU may be able to get a temporary residence permit in some EU countries if they cooperate with the police in bringing their smugglers to justice.

Children Travelling Alone
Children travelling alone

If you are a non-EU citizen under 18 years of age and would like to come to an EU country on your own, it is important to follow the proper procedures. Otherwise you will be an irregular migrant and may have to return home.

More on how to legally enter the EU

Children arriving in an EU country alone are protected until a durable solution is found. Durable solutions should be determined in the interest of the child and shall consist of either:

  • return and reintegration in the country of origin; or
  • granting of a legal status allowing minors to integrate in the EU country.

EU policy is based on the respect for the rights of the child as set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2010, the EU adopted an Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors which proposed an EU-wide approach to dealing with non-EU children who arrive in EU countries without adult companions. In April 2017, The Commission adopted a Communication on the protection of children in migration.

Further information

More on how to legally enter the EU

Avoiding the risks

Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings

EU-wide rules on trafficking in human beings

EU-wide rules on residence permits for victims of human trafficking

EU-wide rules on smuggling EU Action Plan on children travelling alone