THE HAGUE, the Netherlands – The second INTERPOL and Europol Operational Forum on Countering Migrant Smuggling Networks has outlined important measures against the organized criminal networks behind people smuggling. It was held at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague.
The two-day (22 and 23 February) meeting discussed concrete operational actions in key areas related to migrant smuggling, including: illicit money flows and money laundering; the use of social media by smuggling networks; the links between migrant smuggling and other criminal activities such as trafficking in human beings and child exploitation; identity and document fraud; and the modi operandi of travel facilitators.
“The criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling expand beyond EU borders, covering countries of origin, transit and destination,’’ said Wil van Gemert, Europol Deputy Director of Operations.
“This is why the partnership between Europol and INTERPOL, based on mutual trust and close collaboration, is so important. The second edition of the Forum offers the perfect opportunity to create more synergies in the fight against migrant smuggling networks and strengthens global law enforcement cooperation, with a special focus on how to improve and plan joint operational activities,’’ added Mr Van Gemert.
Tim Morris, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, said the Forum provided an important opportunity for INTERPOL and Europol to further combine their efforts against the diverse nature of people smuggling networks and their spread across international borders.
“With people smuggling a global issue it is vital that we continue to streamline our efforts to identify, monitor and disrupt these criminal networks inside and outside of Europe. INTERPOL, as the world’s largest criminal police organization, is in a unique position, in coordination with Europol and other regional stakeholders, to mobilize its analytical, operational and capacity building capabilities in response to these transnational criminal networks,” said Mr Morris.
Mr Morris added that the launch of the European Migrant Smuggling Centre during the Forum would provide another platform for cooperation between the two organizations.
Since the first joint operational forum held at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France in October 2015, INTERPOL and Europol have significantly reinforced their operational cooperation to ensure optimal investigative support to law enforcement agencies across source, transit and destination countries within their respective memberships.
The second forum held jointly by INTERPOL and Europol to counter migrant smuggling networks included the following highlights:
- Concrete operational actions will be further elaborated and implemented by law enforcement authorities of member countries with support from INTERPOL and Europol. Investigations taking into account links to other crime areas are to be launched within the framework of the EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats) Joint Action Days 2016 under the EU Policy Cycle for serious and organized crime.
- INTERPOL and Europol presented a joint draft report on migrant smuggling networks affecting Europe, as agreed at the first operational forum in Lyon. The report provides an overview of the criminal networks behind migrant smuggling, their key hotspots and modi operandi, as well as the financial flows and assets of supporting networks. It provides an expert assessment on future threats and risks and sets a list of recommendations for future operational actions. The intelligence gaps identified and operational key areas to target were discussed during the meeting.
- INTERPOL provided an update on the Specialist Operational Network against Migrant Smuggling, comprising 86 experts from 71 source, transit and destination countries. Working closely with Europol and other partners, this specialist network aims to increase the real-time exchange of law enforcement information worldwide in order to more effectively investigate migrant smugglers and dismantle migrant smuggling networks.
The two-day meeting brought together some 200 experts from 70 source, transit and destination countries affected by irregular migration flows, as well as from international and regional organizations.