Spain example used at European people smuggling meeting

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A RUBBER boat that was used to bring 78 ‘irregular’ migrants to Spain has been at the centre of the annual European Joint Operational Team (JOT) MARE meeting.

Dutch experts have subjected the craft to a forensic examination to see what clues can be gleaned about people smuggling operations, particularly in the field of communications, to help law enforcement agencies across Europe tackle the problem. 

Sharing expertise and knowledge is crucial to combat ruthless criminals risking migrants’ lives for their highly profitable criminal activity. Europol hosted experts from EU Members states, third party countries and international organisations gathered at the annual meeting  (JOT) MARE on November 25 and 26. 

The experts focused on modern communication technologies involved in enabling illegal migration, use of specialised forensic examinations and cooperation with source and transit countries to tackle the criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling. 

During the conference, the Netherlands Forensic Institute presented their preliminary finding on an examination of a rubber boat used to smuggle 78 irregular migrants in life-threatening conditions to Spain. The experts shared the operational value of specialist forensics in the investigations against criminal networks smuggling vulnerable migrants in extremely dangerous condition by sea.       

In a statement Europol said: “A profitable and widespread criminal activity, migrant smuggling has attracted the most ruthless criminal networks active in the EU and beyond. In 2019, estimated smuggling price varied from €300 for a jet ski to €5,000 for a yacht. 

“Authorities from source, transit and destination countries work to reinforce cooperation and disrupt this highly life-threatening criminal activity. JOT Mare annual meeting provided a platform to strengthen and deepen cooperation by the exchange of best practices and experience in the fight against migrant smuggling.” 

A particular emphasis was put on the cooperation with African countries. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – Regional Office for West Africa highlighted the challenges and opportunities in cooperation with countries in the region. 

In addition, a delegation from The ROCK (Regional Operational Centre in Khartoum) shared their experience on operations against human trafficking and people smuggling from the Horn of Africa. 

Frontex, Eurojust and Interpol focused on the current state of play and the set-up of operational cooperation with countries outside of the EU.  

Participants were also updated with main operational developments in the JOT MARE and Information Clearing House teams, with ongoing initiatives and future projects of Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre.  

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Written by

Dilip Kuner

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