20 May 2016

On Tuesday 17 May 2016 Europol and INTERPOL presented a joint Report on Migrant Smuggling Networks identifying the modus operandi, routes and structures of the various criminal groups involved in this increasingly lucrative business. This unprecedented combined effort aimed to provide insight into the criminal networks of migrant smugglers which profit from the despair of refugees and migrants. The report found that 90% of migrants travelled to the EU in 2015 by resorting to criminal groups. As a consequence these individuals are vulnerable to be targeted for labour and sexual exploitation as they need to repay their debt to smugglers.

The report expects the percentage of migrants to use criminal travel facilitation to further rise, especially within the EU due to the recent closure of the national borders of some EU Member States. As a consequence of external factors such as border controls and weather conditions the report also foresees a further diversification of the routes. As ECRE and other NGOs have pointed out, the most effective way to disrupt the smugglers’ business model is to take away their reason for existence. In absence of legal channels to reach the EU, refugees and migrants are increasingly forced to resort to smugglers to find safety.

With an estimated price of 3,000-6,000 Euro per person travelling, the report concludes that smuggling networks generated around 5 billion Euros last year from their activities. The report contributes to an ever-increasing discourse that the lack of legal avenues to enter the EU eventually leads to better organised criminal networks and more suffering for migrants and refugees.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 May 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.