By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
LONDON, United Kingdom – European police arrested 103 people who are suspected of participating in a “major people-smuggling criminal network.” The network smuggled people primarily from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey.
Europol, a joint law enforcement agency in the Union, conducted searches in 117 houses that involved more than 1,200 police officers. Laptops, mobile phones, cash, bank statements, semi-automatic weapons and ammunition were just some of the memorabilia seized.
The exposed smuggling emphasized a problem of migrants who are desperate to escape poverty and conflict in their home countries. As a result, illegal immigrants pay criminal gangs £1,500 to smuggle them out of Britain via Turkey and the Balkans.
Europol reported that the smuggled individuals were transported in “inhuman” conditions. Moreover, “the migrants were often smuggled in inhuman and dangerous conditions, such as in very small hidden compartments in the floor of buses or trucks, in freight trains or on boats.”
The smuggle network originally was exposed when journalist, Paul Kenyon, claimed to be a Moldovan illegal immigrant named “Chris”, and recorded a meeting with a man he accused of being a fixer for the group. The man explained that the gang would smuggle groups of illegal immigrants across the Channel in the back of a lorry.
According to the International Police Organization, “People-smuggling syndicates are drawn by the huge profits that can be made, while benefiting from weak legislation and the relatively low risk of detection, prosecution and arrest.” The International Organization for Migration (I.O.M.) determined that smuggling individuals could garner profits from $3 to $10 billion a year.
The I.O.M. clarifies that smuggling indicates individuals obtaining entry into a state of which the individual is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident, for financial or material gain.” Conversely, “Trafficking, on the other hand, occurs for the purpose of exploitation, often involving forced labor and prostitution.”
Although the illegal immigrants willingly traveled in search of a better life, people-smuggling is, nevertheless, not a victimless crime. The I.O.M. said, “Numerous other crimes are oftentimes linked to people smuggling – human trafficking, identity fraud, corruption and money laundering – creating shadow governance systems that undercut the rule of law.”
For further information, please see:
The New York Times – Europeans Dismantle People-Smuggling Ring – 31 January 2013
BBC – Europe Police ‘Smash People-Smuggling Ring’ – 30 January 2013
The Independent – Criminal Ganges Are Smuggling Immigrants Out of the UK – 21 January 2013
DailyMail – Illegal Immigrants Pay £1,500 to Be Smuggled OUT of Britain: Fears Gangs Are Helping Foreign Criminals Flee the Country – 20 January 2013