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28 October 2010

INTERPOL to create international working group to combat people smuggling

LYON, France – The creation of a global specialized group on people smuggling to strengthen the strategic and operational network of experts is the key outcome of an international meeting hosted by INTERPOL, the world’s largest police organization.

This specialized group on people smuggling and illegal migration will primarily focus on investigational techniques and operational interventions to combat a growing form of criminality where crime syndicates benefit from weak legislation, huge profits and the relatively low risk of detection, prosecution and arrest compared to other activities of transnational organized crime.

No similar co-ordination structure currently exists, and this outcome from the three-day International Conference on People Smuggling (26-28 October) at the INTERPOL General Secretariat, attended by nearly 110 experts from 44 countries, will establish a global platform to support the work of each of INTERPOL’s 188 member countries.

“While there is work being done across the globe to identify and dismantle people smuggling networks at the national level, this new working group will provide a central point for international law enforcement to focus and so intensify their efforts against this type of criminality,” said INTERPOL’s Assistant Director of Trafficking in Human Beings unit, Jonathan Eyers.

“There are an estimated 44 million people displaced worldwide, who present a large and vulnerable target to unscrupulous crime syndicates which are often engaged in other illicit activities such as drug smuggling and corruption,” added Mr Eyers.

Among the successful initiatives and best practice highlighted by experts during the meeting was Operation Pipeline, a project targeting human smuggling between Colombia and the US. Investigating officers from the involved countries identified the transnational syndicate behind the smuggling operation and further investigations then established additional links between the gang and terrorism and money laundering activities.

The syndicate was dismantled, and with 10 individuals convicted of a range of offences and sentenced to prison terms of between three and six years, Operation Pipeline demonstrated the multifaceted nature of the human smuggling issue.

Also high on the conference agenda was the use of fraudulent travel documents in people smuggling and the need for countries to ensure border control officers have all necessary tools, such as access to INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, to identify and prevent individuals from entering their country illegally.