Published in January 2019.
This module is a resource for lecturers
Addressing demand: the role of organized criminal groups
The increasing demand for smuggling services has prompted the 'professionalization' of smuggling networks. Organized criminal groups often control and/or operate in all phases of the smuggling process. For instance, they might provide fraudulent documents to migrants, arrange transportation by air or sea, and then facilitate further movement over land (for example, by delivering means of transportation, temporary documentation, or provision of escorts). Migrant smuggling syndicates can earn extremely high profits from this criminal activity. In some instances, they benefit from weak legislation and a low risk of detection and prosecution compared to other forms of transnational organized crime (see Module 1 and Module 3 of the University Module Series on Organized Crime for an overview of the activities of organized criminal groups). Organized criminal groups commonly vary routes, contacts and means of transportation to avoid detection.
Smuggling ventures may take days, weeks or many months to complete and often present serious risks to the life, safety and physical integrity of migrants. The fees for the services provided by organized criminal groups vary, but may be very high (for examples, see UNODC, Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants , 2018, page 46). The more demanding (and 'safer') the service, the higher the price will be. Sham marriages and fraudulent visas enabling entry and stay in more desirable destination countries may cost very large sums of money. Operations involving corruption of public officials or persons in positions of authority will be especially expensive. In some respects, organized criminal groups operating migrant smuggling services offer a type of illicit 'travel agency'. That is, they organize trips from the country where migrants are, to their desired destination country. The level, quality and quantity of services will be proportional to the cost. Importantly, though, the services provided and the result envisaged by these 'agencies' are fully or in part illegal. Usually, the activities of smugglers are criminal notwithstanding the ultimate success of smuggling ventures (see Module 1).
EU migration crisis: some facts on organized criminal groups' modus operandi
Europol, European Migrant Smuggling Centre, First Year Activity Report, February 2017
The TEDx Talk Why Migrant Smuggling Pays (approx. 15 minutes) elaborates on the economic motivations of those involved in migrant smuggling and the related massive and complex underpinning industry that has developed around it.
The key points highlighted in this TEDx Talk are:
Migrant smuggling is one of the most serious contemporary threats. It:
Migrant smuggling resembles a business, the process and structure of which has evolved in accordance with customers' needs and demands.
Every person in the smuggling process or benefiting from it has an interest in the smuggling venture being successful. The critical consideration is the direct or indirect gain made: