Smugglers made $6bn from illegal migrant trafficking to EU last year - report

© Dimitris Michalakis
The trafficking of asylum seekers and economic migrants to the European Union generated $5-6 billion in earnings for criminal networks in 2015, according to a report from Europol and Interpol.

The report describes migrant smuggling as a multinational business, with suspects coming from more than 100 countries. It represents one of the main profit-generating activities for organized crime in Europe.

Travel by 90 percent of the migrants to the EU is “predominantly facilitated by members of a criminal network.” Facilitators behind migrant smuggling are organized in loosely connected networks.

The report showed that one million asylum seekers who entered the EU illegally last year paid traffickers $3,200 - $6,500 on average. “This is a clear indication that organized crime networks are profiting from mass migration,” said the report.

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“These earnings strengthen criminal networks and have a significant negative long-term impact on Europe's economy,” said Europol Director Rob Wainwright.

Migrant smuggling suspects tend to have previous connections with other types of crime while migrants who travel to the EU are vulnerable to labor or sexual exploitation as they need to repay their debt to smugglers, according to the report.

Europol and Interpol said they are expecting an increase in the number of migrants trying to reach the EU. “In Libya alone, around 800,000 migrants are waiting to travel to the EU.”

“While a systematic link between migrant smuggling and terrorism is not proven, there is an increased risk that foreign terrorist fighters may use migratory flows to (re)enter the EU,” said the report.

According to Europol Director Rob Wainwright, the report “sends a clear message to the EU and its member states that we must combat these networks in the strongest possible terms.”