The need to distinguish human smugglers from individuals and humanitarian organisations helping irregular migrants will be the focus of a debate in the Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday.

MEPs are worried about the uncertainty faced by humanitarian actors assisting migrants in irregular situation, because under the current EU legislation (the “facilitators package”) they risk being criminalised. The 2002 “Facilitation” directive foresees criminal penalties for anyone who “facilitates” the irregular entry, transit or residence of migrants.

However, as pointed out in a plenary resolution adopted last July, the law also gives member states the power to exempt “humanitarian” action from the list of crimes. Parliament regrets that so far few EU countries have incorporated the “humanitarian assistance” exemption into their national laws.

On Thursday, MEPs will exchange views with representatives of the European Commission, Frontex and the French Government about the implementation of the legislation. They will also listen to testimonies from humanitarian workers involved in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.