The 2nd Europol and INTERPOL Operational Forum on Countering Migrant Smuggling Networks, held at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague on 22 and 23 February, outlined important measures against the organised criminal networks behind people smuggling. The Forum 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 patterns 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. This 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.’’
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 organisation, is in a unique position, in coordination with Europol and other regional stakeholders, to mobilise its analytical, operational and capacity building capabilities against these transnational criminal networks,” said Mr Morris.
Mr Morris added that the European Migrant Smuggling Centre, which was launched during the Forum, would provide another platform for cooperation between the two organisations.
Since the first joint Operational Forum held in Lyon in October 2015, Europol and INTERPOL 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.
At this 2nd Europol and INTERPOL Operational Forum on Countering Migrant Smuggling Networks:
- The European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) at Europol was launched - an important step forward in the EU’s fight against migrant smuggling networks. Working closely with relevant EU partners, INTERPOL and third countries, the EMSC aims to strengthen Europol’s capacity to assist European Union Member States through enhanced information exchange, operational and strategic support. The Centre will focus on geographical criminal hotspots and will build a better capability across the European Union to fight people smuggling networks.
- Europol and INTERPOL presented a joint draft report on migrant smuggling networks affecting Europe, as agreed upon at the 1st 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’s 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 informed participants of 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.
In addition, concrete operational actions will be further elaborated and implemented by law enforcement authorities of member countries with support from Europol and INTERPOL. Investigations taking into account links to other areas are planned to be launched within the framework of the EMPACT Joint Action Days 2016 under the EU Policy Cycle for serious and organised crime.
This two-day meeting brought together around 200 experts from 70 source, transit and destination countries affected by irregular migration flows, as well as from international and regional organisations.