Migrant smugglers mostly Turks, says Europol
Member states are reporting more and more migrant smuggling suspects to the EU police agency Europol.
The spike in reporting, when compared to last year, suggests Turkish nationals ply the migrant smuggling trade more than anyone else.
Dear EUobserver reader
Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.
Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.
- Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
- All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
- EUobserver archives
EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.
♡ We value your support.
If you already have an account click here to login.
"What we see is that Turkish suspects smuggle migrants both into the EU and within the EU," an Europol spokesperson told EUobserver earlier this week.
Figures released earlier this month suggest Turks outrank other nationalities as migrant smuggling suspects.
But out of a total 12,000 new suspects reported this year, Europol was able to confirm the nationality of only 3,992.
Of those, it found Turks ranked highest with 423 nationalities, followed by Syrians at 364 and Romanians at 216.
Europol cautioned against drawing any conclusion that would appear to suggest migrant smuggling from Turkey is one the rise.
"The only thing you can assume for certain is that more suspects were reported to Europol by the EU member states," noted the spokesperson.
Asked to respond, the EU commission says the figures refer to people apprehended within EU states and "not suspects involved in migrant smuggling to the EU from third countries".
The EU deal signed with Turkey earlier this year was meant to tackle the smuggling routes into Europe. The commission is set to publish its own assessment of the deal this month.
But Europol also says the nationalities reflect the evolution of migratory routes, as smuggling networks tend to use "local nationals" to facilitate the transport and accommodation of irregular migrants.
Things are only likely to get worse, notes the agency.
It says migratory pressures from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria into the EU will increase.
More bottlenecks and informal camps in EU states are also likely to emerge.
It says labour exploitation of migrants will increase in both transit and destination countries and smugglers will increasingly use "vessels in poor conditions" that are only able to float for a few hours.
Europol also found that smugglers were adapting to stricter border controls and are now using new routes and methods to evade police and border guards.
"New alternative routes via air, sea and land are increasingly used," it said.
Similar findings were also reported last week by the UK-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a think tank on international development and humanitarian issues.
It said migrants were increasingly using illicit routes into the EU because of tougher border measures and deals with countries like Turkey.
"In 2015, only 35 percent of new asylum applications were from people arriving in Europe by covert means. In 2016, that proportion is projected to increase to approximately 60 percent," said ODI.