Sanctions against people-smuggling network operated by the Syrian regime
On 22 January 2024 the European Union added a number of persons and entities to the EU sanctions list. This is because they are providing support to and benefiting the Syrian regime and assisting in people-smuggling operations. This step was prompted by a joint initiative by the Netherlands, Germany, France and Sweden.
People smuggling via the Mediterranean Sea
The EU sanctions target persons and entities associated with the Syrian regime who are involved in smuggling migrants. These persons and entities have created a business model that consists of offering dangerous journeys to Syrians wanting to flee the country, for payment. This enables the regime – which has largely created the Syrian refugee flows itself, by repressing its own people – to profit economically from these refugees. Businesspeople and companies, including those associated with an adviser to President Assad, organise flights from Damascus to eastern Libya. From there, the route used by the smugglers takes them to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
This route is part of a revenue model exploited by the Syrian regime which helps finance the ongoing violent repression of the Syrian civilian population. This is why the EU has put persons and entities involved with these practices on the sanctions list.
Iranian and Russian influence
Individuals who are part of the Syrian business elite have also been added to the sanctions list, including family members of Asma al-Assad, the president’s wife. They profit from the regime’s illegal business model and facilitate the subversive Iranian and Russian influence in Syria and the Middle East.
Targeted sanctions; the Netherlands supports the Syrian people
This sanctions package consists of targeted sanctions. It only affects the persons and entities on the sanctions list. Any European assets belonging to persons and entities on the sanctions list are frozen. Individuals and entities based in the EU are prohibited from doing business with them, and individuals on the sanctions list are subject to an EU travel ban. Therefore, the sanctions do not negatively impact support for the Syrian people, such as humanitarian aid provided by the Netherlands and the EU. By imposing targeted sanctions, the EU and its member states have issued a clear message: the Netherlands and the EU stand behind the people of Syria.
Last year, on 24 April 2023, the Netherlands imposed extra sanctions on persons and entities associated with the Syrian regime. The sanctions package focused primarily on large-scale drug trafficking carried out by the regime, repression of the people of Syria and Syria’s involvement with Russia.
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