People smuggling

Complex criminal networks facilitate the illegal passage of migrants across borders – for a price.

Hundreds of thousands of people leave their home countries every year to escape conflict and poverty. Many are willing to take desperate measures in the hopes of finding a better life.

Transnational organized crime groups know this and take advantage of people’s desperation. They facilitate the passage of migrants with little or no regard for their safety and wellbeing. What matters is the money.

INTERPOL people smuggling operation Andes
Operation Andes 2018: Smugglers abandoned Haitian and African migrants in the mountains.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that at least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in 2016, generating nearly USD 7 billion for people smugglers.

People smuggling is closely tied to the use of fraudulent travel documents and is linked to other crimes such as illicit money flows, corruption, terrorism, trafficking in illicit goods and human trafficking.  

At INTERPOL, our activities focus on identifying and arresting the criminals involved in smuggling, but not the migrants themselves. Our response includes:

  • Operations to dismantle the criminal networks behind people smuggling and related crimes;
  • Specialized training for frontline officers in our member countries;
  • Investigative support for complex international cases;
  • The INTERPOL Specialized Operational Network of experts on smuggling.

Activities