While a systematic link between migrant smuggling and terrorism is not proven, there is an increased risk that foreign terrorist fighters may use migratory flows to enter or re-enter the EU, according to a joint report by Europol and Interpol on migrant smuggling networks.
The report, a summary of which was published on May 17, estimates that the annual turnover of migrant smuggling was worth an estimated $5 to $6 billion in 2015, representing one of the main profit-generating activities for organised criminals in Europe.
The findings of the report underline the need for an accurate and in-depth understanding of the wide range of illicit services offered by migrant smugglers, and their operating methods, so as to dismantle their criminal networks, the police agencies said.
The report covers the activities, organisational structures, operating capabilities, geographical hotspots of migrant smugglers and their estimated profits.
It says that travel by 90 per cent of the migrants to EU is predominantly facilitated by members of a criminal network.
Key migratory routes identified as main corridors for migrant smuggling are fluid and influenced by external factors like border controls, according to the report.
Facilitators behind migrant smuggling are organized in loosely connected networks, the report said, also concluding that migrant smuggling is a multinational business, with suspects originating from more than 100 countries.
The structure of migrant smuggling networks includes leaders who loosely coordinate activities along a given route, organisers who manage activities locally through personal contacts, and opportunistic low level facilitators.
Migrant smuggling suspects tend to have previous connections with other types of crime, the report says.
Migrants who travel to the EU are vulnerable to labour or sexual exploitation as they need to repay their debt to smugglers, the police agencies said.
Europol director Rob Wainwright said that the report describes the huge role played by organised crime networks in the migration crisis “and sends a clear message to the EU and its member states that we must combat these networks in the strongest possible terms”.
Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said: “While Europe may be the destination for these migrants, the crisis cannot be resolved by police and policy-makers in the region alone.
“This comprehensive joint analysis will serve as the basis for targeted and meaningful joint actions in Europe and around the world,” Stock said.
(Photo: UNHCR/M Henley)