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CJEU rules that people smugglers can be prosecuted after immigrants have later gained EU citizenship because home country joins EU

Paoletti and Others (Judgment) [2016] EUECJ C-218/15

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that people smugglers may still be prosecuted after illegal immigrants have since gained EU citizenship due to their country of origin being granted EU membership.

The accused had illegally obtained work and residence permits for thirty Romanian nationals in 2004 and 2005, prior to the accession of Romania to the EU.  The accused persons were charged with having organised their entry in order to benefit from intensive and ongoing exploitation of foreign labour.

European law prohibits imposition of retrospective or more severe penalties.  The question to decide was therefore whether a Member State could impose a criminal penalty on those persons who facilitated illegal immigration before Romania was a member of the EU.

The CJEU decided that ‘The mere fact that, after their illegal entry, those nationals have become EU citizens because of the accession of their State of origin to the European Union has no bearing on the course of the criminal proceedings brought against those persons who facilitate illegal immigration.’

The Court considered that to rule otherwise would encourage trafficking once a State has initiated the process of accession to the EU and grant immunity to traffickers.

Read UK Human Rights Blog article here.

Criminal Law, Immigration & Asylum