A joint Europol-Interpol report found that more than 90% of migrants crossing into Europe do so using criminal organisations.
The report on the extraordinary crisis interviewed 1,500 migrants in 2015 and reported on the methods criminal gangs use to facilitate crossings into Europe.
“From illegal crossings at land or sea borders, to the fabrication and provision of fraudulent travel and identity documents, the challenges for the law enforcement community in countering the facilitation of illegal migration are numerous,” the report said. Migrant crossings generated an estimated USD $5 billion in 2015 alone for criminals, although with payments overwhelmingly in cash the true value is hard to know.
Well-established migration routes, including crossing into Spain from Morocco and across the Mediterranean from Libya saw a decrease of 12% from 2014 to 2015, but the number of migrants moving from Turkey to Greece over the same period saw a staggering 1,612% increase. 885,386 people used this route in that year.
Whilst keeping eyes trained on the known migration routes, the two agencies warned that variable factors – like weather conditions and reinstating internal borders – mean that primary flows of migrants are often subject to change. The report also warned of possible new hotspots cropping up.
The preferred method of “facilitation services” – the term for criminal gangs enabling migrant movement – is overwhelmingly overland. But the report warned that air travel, currently a less-trafficked route for migrants, could become a more attractive option as Europe steps up patrol of its land and sea borders.
In addition, Europol and Interpol suspect that gangs may be looking to expand upon their trafficking business. The report warned that established routes could be used to transport illegal substances and contraband into Europe, as the migrant smuggling routes are often the same ones used to transport such goods.
The joint report also gave a bleak outlook on the future, suggesting that a further increase in migrants attempting to reach Europe should be expected in the near future as the situation in war-torn countries does not see improvement. It also warned that intra-Europe smuggling could see a rise as member states of the Schengen Zone re-establish their border controls.
Finally, the report gave a warning that migrants using criminal services to travel to Europe face a high risk of being forced into criminal activity by their facilitators, including sexual, financial and criminal exploitation.
Image by Ggia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons