The European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, has revealed through its recent reports that migrant smugglers and human traffickers have continued to thrive despite new rules and restrictions imposed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Europol, increased digitization has significantly affected the performance of every aspect of our society, including illegal actions committed by criminals, TheSchengen.com reports.
Authorities reported that 2021 saw an increase in the role digital technologies play in human trafficking and migrant smuggling, indicating that these groups have used various platforms to target and exploit vulnerable people.
Commenting on the matter, Europol’s CEO, Catherine de Paul, said human trafficking and migrant smuggling networks use any crisis as an opportunity to increase their illegal profits.
More digital than ever, De Boelle said these networks are abusing mobile apps, various social media platforms, and encrypted communication tools to provide illegal services, regulate logistics, as well as secure their profits.
The rapid exchange of information, cross-border cooperation and online referrals, facilitated by Europol, have proven useful in addressing these smugglers and traffickers. De Paul added that the information Member States share with Europol has been the backbone of the analytical support we have provided to more than 800 priority investigations over the past six years.
As criminal groups continue to adapt to technology, Robert Kribi, head of the European Center for the Smuggling of Migrants, emphasized that the law enforcement community within the European Union is dealing with criminal activities better than ever before.
It was revealed that to respond to the threat posed by human traffickers and migrant smugglers, Europol has already coordinated the first day of referral procedures.
“Human traffickers have abused anonymity in the online environment to target and then exploit vulnerable individuals via escort sites and even dating platforms. To respond to this new threat, Europol coordinated a first referral working day aimed at facilitating online illegal immigration services, among the responses Others,” Kribi said.
Europol data shows that during 2021, a total of 6,139 new cases of migrant smuggling and human trafficking were supported. During the same year, 55 working days were recorded on the site with Europol experts and 26 high-value targets were identified.
Earlier this month, Europol implemented a joint action with German and Greek police authorities. During this procedure, they arrested one person on charges of smuggling migrants into the European Union as well as confiscating a large number of identity documents.