Europol launches new taskforce to fight migrant smugglers

The European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, launched a new taskforce on 2 July aimed at tackling organised people smuggling and human trafficking networks.

The new “Joint Liaison Task Force Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings” (JLT-MS), coordinated by Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC), will target the most dangerous smuggling networks.

The new taskforce, which is made up of law enforcement officials from agencies across the EU, aims to improve information sharing across EU member states in order to fight people smuggling networks which are constantly changing their operational tactics.

The taskforce will work to identify key criminal networks and execute cross-border operations. The taskforce will impose a great deal of pressure on the criminal groups behind people smuggling and human trafficking in and outside Europe.

Robert Crepinko, Head of Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC), told  Reuters that organised crime gangs involved in people smuggling are becoming more violent towards migrants as they seek to maximise their profits.

“People involved in migrant smuggling are far from gentlemen trying to help other people get a better life. They are criminals who will do everything to get their money. They are ruthless,” said Crepinko. For example, in early July 2019, a migrant smuggler was detained in Spain following the death of a migrant on board a boat bound for Spain from Morocco.

Crepinko further stated  that smugglers continue to force migrants to take unsafe crossings in an attempt to reach Europe, saying “We have seen cases where migrants did not want to go into unseaworthy vessels or other unsafe smuggling means like trucks, but violence or threats with weapons are used to (make) them continue the journey.”

“I’m convinced that there have never been more groups trying to make criminal profits out of this – that’s why we have to remain vigilant and step up our efforts,” Crepinko added.

In 2018, Europol assisted law enforcement agencies of several EU member states in the arrest of 600 suspected migrant smugglers.

Europol’s Deputy Executive Director for Operations, Wil van Gemert, said that “criminal networks are constantly reshaping their business models to avoid law enforcement radars.” Gemert added that the new tasforce will help to target criminal networks which put migrants lives at risks.

“This is why through this new JLT-MS, EU member states with the support of Europol will target even more effectively this major threat for human lives posed by criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings,” Gemert added.

Europol states that the main routes used by people-smuggling networks are the central and western Mediterranean, western Balkan and UK-France border. These are among the main routes used by people-smuggling networks to illegally bring migrants into Europe.

TMP – 29/07/2019

Photo credit: Europol

Photo caption: Europol’s Deputy Executive Director of Operations, Wil van Gemert (centre) announces the launch of the new taskforce to tackle smuggling networks