New modus operandi in migrant smuggling which puts them at risk

It is increasingly difficult to cross borders and avoid the radars of police authorities. For this reason, smugglers of migrants are developing riskier ways of transporting irregular migrants in countries targeted within the European Union.

Some of the most recent trends related to migrant smuggling have been published in the latest report of the special edition of the EuropeanMonitoring Teamd’Europol:

• The reappearance of the alternative route via the Black Sea, mainly to go from Turkey to Romania.

• The use of recreational vessels(mainly yachts) to smuggle migrants from Turkey to Italy.

• The EU as an area of passage for irregular immigrants who are aiming to get to the USA or Canada.

• The increase in arrivals via the western Mediterranean route to Spain.

• Dangerous methods of hiding immigrants in airtight containers and vans, or vehicle engine compartments.

Riskier methods

These latest trends warrant special attention because of their potential impact on the lives of migrants. Security forces have confirmed a growing number of incidents which indicate attempts to hide immigrants in very dangerous ways in vehicles across bordering localities.

The most frequently used method is still the use of lorries and vans to smuggle migrants. The cramped conditions, the lack of air and movement at great speed to avoid a police response are only some of the dangers involved in road-related smuggling.

One of the methods of transport detected more recently is to hide irregular migrants in engine compartments as they cross borders. Before approaching border crossing points, immigrants place themselves in the compartment of the vehicle used to transport them. The immigrants are hidden in the upper part of the engine of the vehicle to make use of the space available between the engine and the bonnet. The method is extremely dangerous and the lives of migrants who cross the border in this way may be at risk.

Irregular immigrants travel with the smuggler most of the journey and are only hidden in this way when crossing borders. An example shows that for this service, migrants had to pay about 7000 Euros for the journey from Turkey to Austria. These events demonstrate that immigrant smuggling continues to be a very attractive business to criminal networks.

Awareness raising of emerging tendencies

Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) follows these rapidly developing trends to improve the level of specialised support and allow for the application of the law throughout the EU and fight against this activity more efficiently. Effective action requires international cooperation between law-enforcement agents. For this reason, the EMSC periodically publishes a document called European monitoring report (EPMT). It began exactly two years ago and has just produced its 300th edition. The EPMT is a valuable reference document to give support to the application of the law and to authorities in their decision-making processes.

This special edition provides a series of statistics and new concepts related to organised smuggling. It also makes reference to the main routes and modus operandi currently used by immigrant smugglers, the contribution of member states of the EU and members involved in the EPMT, the activities and capabilities of Europol, as well as the path to follow.

More information about latest trends can be found at infografia EPMT.


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