Wednesday

8th Dec 2021

EU home to over 5,000 criminal groups

  • Migrant smuggling remains a lucrative business in the EU (Photo: Reuters)

More than 5,000 international organised crime groups are operating throughout the EU, up from 3,600 in 2013.

Europol, the EU police agency, said in a report on Thursday (9 March) that the latest figure is more a reflection of an improved intelligence picture rather than an absolute increase in the number of gangs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"It is also an indication of shifts in criminal markets and the emergence of smaller groups and individual criminal entrepreneurs," said Europol's director Rob Wainwright.

Around 60 percent of those involved in the groups are EU nationals, according to Europol’s latest serious organised crime threat assessment (Socta) report.

The document states that "document fraud, money laundering and the online trade in illicit goods and services are the engines of organised crime in the EU".

Many of the gangs are also involved in more than one form of crime with things like document fraud emerging as a key criminal activity linked to migration.

Migrant smuggling networks in 2015 earned up to €5.7 billion in profits during the height of the refugee crisis.

Those profits dropped to around €2 billion last year following the sharp drop in the number of people entering the EU.

But despite the fall, the industry still remains comparable to Europe's illicit drugs market.

Many are offering tailored services that include fraudulent travel and identify documents.

Europol notes that "the distinction between legal and illegal activities is increasingly blurred" in an area that may see taxi or lorry drivers implicated in smuggling.

Document fraud linked to migrant smuggling has also increased in both terms of quality and quantity.

While most use genuine passports by people who resemble the passport holder, others resort to forged, counterfeited, or stolen blanks.

Last year, Greek and Czech police arrested people in an Athens-based network that were charging anywhere from €100 to €3,000 per forged document.

The gang was producing passports, national ID cards, visas, residence cards, asylum seeker registration cards, and driving licenses.

Migrant smugglers mostly Turks, says Europol

Figures published by the EU police agency suggest that Turks are now prime movers in the migrant smuggling industry. But it is still difficult to get a real picture of the situation.

Investigation

How the Italian mafia found a Dutch home

One of the biggest mafia trials in Europe in recent years is about to end. Members of the Crupi clan are accused of smuggling vast amounts of cocaine from South America to Italy, using the Netherlands as their main hub.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

News in Brief

  1. Russia to lose Swift access, pipeline if it invades Ukraine
  2. EU urban population exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution
  3. Record rise in UK alcohol deaths during Covid
  4. EU agencies back 'mix-and-match' vaccine approach
  5. Slovak centre-right MEP joins Renew
  6. Suspected hitman in Khashoggi murder arrested in Paris
  7. EU agrees to sanction Russian mercenaries
  8. Germany asks Iran for realistic nuclear proposals

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Latest News

  1. EU to announce new mandatory rules on child sexual content
  2. WHO warns mandatory vaccination 'absolute last resort'
  3. EU ministers shoot down updated corporate tax rules
  4. EU now open to VAT exemptions for green products
  5. Why was central Europe open to China's Covid disinformation?
  6. Could north Cyprus unilaterally join euro to escape Turkey's lira?
  7. Germany's new government – what's in it for Europe?
  8. Denmark and Hungary oppose EU rules on minimum wages

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us