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Human Trafficking Lessons Learned from a New European Migrant Smuggling Centre Report

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Europol : European Migrant Smuggling Centre

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL), European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) report, “2022 European Migrant Smuggling Centre 6th Annual Report,” Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 28 pages, offers several human trafficking lessons learned for the United States.

Table of Contents

Foreword - Page 4

EMSC Activities and Performance Indicators – Page 6

Migrant Smuggling – Page 9

Trafficking In Human Beings – Page 17

Links Between Crimes: A Networked And Profit-Driven Environment – Page 23

The Way Forward – Page 25

Endnotes – Page 27

Lessons Learned

Human trafficking (also known as Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Human Beings, or Modern Slavery) remains among the main threats posed by organized crime.

Sexual and labor exploitation are the most reported crimes, however trafficking networks target victims also for other purposes, including forced begging and forced criminality, benefit fraud, and illegal adoption schemes. These networks engage in a wide range of related offences, including document fraud, economic and benefit fraud, employment law infringements, money laundering and corruption.

In the EU, human traffickers and their victims are both of EU and non-EU origins. Traffickers target both female and male, adult and underage victims. Continued demand for sexual services and the opportunity to exploit cheap labor are ample incentives for the trafficking networks.

Human trafficking (HT) networks targeting non-EU victims are also often involved in migrant smuggling, or at least in cooperation with smugglers.

The HT process has largely moved online, with recruitment, contacts, the advertising of services, and much more taking place in the online realm, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nowadays most victims are identified and recruited via the internet, particularly on social media platforms. The digitalization of the crime area has also driven an increased flexibility in rotating the victims from one location to another, and has allowed the leadership of the criminal networks to coordinate their operations remotely, thus reducing risks while maintaining profits. The advantages of technology for traffickers also include increased anonymity. Criminals active in HT have adopted encrypted communications solutions, capitalizing on legislative discrepancies in regulating and providing data. People’s increasing online presence on social media, recruitment websites, dating apps and escort pages, allows criminals to reach out to a broader audience, in terms of potential victims and of clients.

With much of the social life moving online during COVID-19 pandemic, minors have become an even more vulnerable target group for criminal recruiters, due to their poor digital hygiene. Online grooming is particularly concerning, as traffickers make use of a wealth of personal information that children make accessible on the internet, allowing offenders to socially engineer their tactics.

A Networked and Profit-Driven Environment

The criminal environment observed in the EU is diverse, flexible, networked and always profit-driven. Logistics or service providers are jointly used by several networks or are employed by the suspects to perpetrate different crimes under their portfolio. In addition to irregular migrants, some criminal networks combine migrant smuggling with trafficking of illicit commodities – most often drugs, tobacco products or stolen goods. Furthermore, trafficking in human beings is occasionally intertwined with migrant smuggling into and through the EU, and document fraud frequently emerges as the bridge between crime areas, as a key enabler of criminal operations.

Upon arrival in the EU, irregular migrants are often victimized in exploitative working conditions. They are obliged to hand over most of their wages to their smugglers, as a means to repay their debt for the migrant smuggling services. Sometimes, criminal networks target irregular migrants already residing in the EU, who are victimized in exchange of fraudulent documents and residence permits.

European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT)

EMPACT introduces an integrated approach to European Union (EU) internal security, involving measures that range from external border controls, police, customs and judicial cooperation to information management, innovation, training, prevention and the external dimension of internal security, as well as public-private partnerships where appropriate. Human trafficking is one of 10 EMPACT 2022-2025 priorities in the fight against serious and organized crime. The priorities also include child sexual exploitation.

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