People smuggling

People smuggling implies the procurement, for financial or material gain, of the illegal entry into a state of which that person is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident.

A broad distinction can be made between people smuggling and human trafficking. In general, the individuals who pay a smuggler in order to gain illegal entry to a country do so voluntarily whereas the victims of human trafficking are often duped or forced into entering another country.

In principle, the relationship between smuggler and migrant ends once the individual arrives in the new country. However, there is evidence that people smugglers continue to exploit illegal migrants, through threats and demands for additional fees. In some cases, smugglers force migrants to work for years in the illegal labour market to pay off the debts incurred as a result of their transportation.

An escalating problem

Human migration is not a new phenomenon. For centuries, people have left their homes in search of better lives elsewhere. In the last decade, the process of globalization has caused an unprecedented amount of migration from the least developed countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe to Western Europe, Australia and North America.

In recent years, the Mediterranean region has seen a massive escalation of the problem, and an increase in the activities of organized criminal networks who facilitate irregular migration.

Currently, conflict and economic instability appear to be the main reasons for the illegal movement of migrants throughout the world, and many migrants are refugees or asylum seekers.

Organized criminal networks

The flow of migrants across borders is sometimes controlled by criminal networks. Due to more restrictive immigration policies in destination countries and improved technology to monitor border crossings, willing illegal migrants rely increasingly on the help of organized people smugglers.

People smuggling is not a homogenous criminal activity; the price of the trip, conditions of travel and status upon arrival can vary significantly. Smuggling is carried out by land, air or sea.

Very often the travelling conditions are inhumane: the migrants are overcrowded in trucks or boats and fatal accidents occur frequently. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 2,800 migrants are estimated to have lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea between January and June 2016.

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 compared to other activities of transnational organized crime.

People smuggling networks often change their routes and methods in response to legislative and law enforcement activities. This means that the routes used by people smugglers may sometimes be simple and direct, at other times circuitous. The time between departure and arrival may vary from some days to several months or even years.

The criminals are difficult to trace as they are generally unknown to the people they are smuggling, use rental vehicles and change their phones and phone numbers regularly.

Read about our operations against people smuggling.

21 octubre 2016

Human trafficking focus of INTERPOL conference

28 septiembre 2016

Identifying cybercriminals at core of INTERPOL-Europol conference

19 septiembre 2016

Conferencia para diseñar una respuesta mundial ante los delitos contra la propiedad intelectual

28 julio 2016

Más de 2 700 víctimas de la trata de personas fueron rescatadas durante una operación coordinada por INTERPOL

12 julio 2016

1 500 policías participan en una operación contra la delincuencia organizada en África Oriental y Austral

05 julio 2016

La seguridad regional y mundial, tema central de la visita del jefe de INTERPOL a El Salvador

18 mayo 2016

La migración y la seguridad fronteriza, temas principales de la reunión europea de INTERPOL

17 mayo 2016

El tráfico de migrantes es un “negocio multinacional”, según un informe conjunto de Europol e INTERPOL

25 marzo 2016

Namibian President discusses global security issues with INTERPOL Secretary General

18 marzo 2016

Border security focus of INTERPOL training under EU-ASEAN programme

23 febrero 2016

INTERPOL and Europol take steps against organized crime behind migrant smuggling

15 febrero 2016

Captura de drogas, delincuentes, armas y oro en una operación fronteriza de INTERPOL en África Occidental

18 diciembre 2015

INTERPOL backs International Migrants Day

17 diciembre 2015

Strengthening border security in ASEAN countries through specialist skills

03 diciembre 2015

International security focus of INTERPOL Chief’s visit to Tunisia

27 noviembre 2015

Austrian Interior Minister and INTERPOL Chief meet on international security cooperation

12 noviembre 2015

La seguridad mundial debe adaptarse a las amenazas actuales, declara el jefe de INTERPOL en una cumbre sobre migración

03 noviembre 2015

La Fiscal General de Estados Unidos destaca ante la Asamblea General de INTERPOL la necesidad de hacer respetar el estado de derecho

20 octubre 2015

Border security across Southeast Asia focus of new EU-ASEAN programme led by INTERPOL

16 octubre 2015

Un foro INTERPOL-Europol esboza medidas contra el tráfico de personas

15 octubre 2015

Se organiza un foro INTERPOL-Europol para combatir las redes de tráfico de migrantes

02 octubre 2015

Identifying fake documents focus of INTERPOL and Frontex workshop

08 julio 2015

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister visit to INTERPOL focuses on terrorism and cybercrime

22 junio 2015

Traficantes detenidos en Côte d’Ivoire en una operación contra la trata de menores y la explotación laboral infantil

19 mayo 2015

Reunión de INTERPOL en Bucarest para marcar el rumbo de la seguridad europea