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Illicit Drug Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in the EU now Joined at the Hips

EUROPOL released on October 13, 2017 its “EPMT No. 300/2 year special edition” which deals with illicit migration to the EU. From the content of EPMT No. 300 on the evolution of illicit migration in the EU it’s now abundantly clear that the human smugglers are now operating along illicit drug trafficking pipelines in the EU as they expand their operational networks and deepen the range of smuggling methodologies utilised. This potently illustrates the adoption of the Mexican Transnational Trafficking Organisations’ (MTTO) model of combining human smuggling with illicit drug trafficking and a range of other illicit enterprises. This specific evolution of human smuggling in the EU is another indication of the operational impact of the MTTOs on organised crime in the EU today. The model developed in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico for the smuggling of migrants to the USA and Canada has now been applied to the EU.

EPMT No. 300 reported the rise in migrant arrivals to Spain, the decrease in arrivals to Italy and the continued decrease in arrivals to Greece as at September 19, 2017. The increase to Spain is coming from Morocco and Tunisia and Algeria are now alternate routes to Italy. The message from the smugglers is then clear as the flow of illicit migrants will now target Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in response to efforts to shut down the crossing points in Libya to Italy. Two major drug trafficking points to the EU are then in play Morocco and Tunisia and Moroccan organised crime has the operational presence in the EU in addition to its affiliate status with the MTTOs to make this strategy effective. Already in Libya the attempts by Italy to pay smugglers to police the Libyan route has generated a war for control of the routes which will escalate and suck the Italians into a quagmire meant to extort Italy and exhaust its willingness to pursue the strategy chosen for Libya. Transnational organised crime will not sit idly by and allow a single militia/smuggling group to shut down its pipeline to Italy except the cocaine to the EU remains untouched but for how long? Such uncertainty drives action as that undertaken in Libya to displace the militia that entered the agreement with Italy.

The report noted the use of leisure vessels especially yachts to move migrants from Turkey to Italy and the existence of the pipeline to move migrants from Turkey to the Black Sea mainly to Romania. Both flows are utilising already operational illicit drug pipelines. The use of leisure vessels to transport drug via the Mediterranean Sea is a reality as is the trafficking of drugs via the Black Sea into Romania.

The Nordic sea smuggling route has been reawakened whilst Scandinavia has become a jump off point for the smuggling of migrants into the USA and Canada. Inevitably both developments are linked and this jump to North America must be facilitated by the theft and production of stolen identities wielded by impostors and the production of fake identities and both are sold to migrants for air travel to North America. The growth of human smuggling across the Atlantic to North America is the potent indicator of the move to maximise profits as entry to the USA is the most expensive package offered and is the prime domain of the MTTOs and their coyotes. This EU wide development indicates the evolution of another route to the US and Canada in a bid to increase the volume of demand for the services of the human smugglers. Clients are given the choice of being routed through the Caribbean, central America to Mexico then from Mexico to the US and Canada or the direct route to the US or Canada which is the most expensive. Clearly the footprint of the MTTOs and their coyotes in migrant smuggling in the EU is now apparently obvious to those who are not plagued with denial. This reality is exposed by the EUROPOL press release of October 19, 2017 which indicates an illicit migrant pipeline from southern Europe to Finland then to Iceland, from Iceland to Mexico and finally the Mexico to USA pipeline. This pipeline to flow into Mexico then into the Mexico/USA pipeline is only possible and feasible with the operational presence of the MTTOs. The smugglers on the ground interdicted in Europe were Syrian and Iraqi nationals.

The report speaks to the pipeline that moves Albanian migrants to the UK which has evolved to the point of using light aircraft to smuggle Albanian migrants into the UK. This pipeline must be seen in light of the rising power of Albanian organised crime in the drug trade of the UK and the use of light aircraft to smuggle drugs into the UK is also noted. Both pipelines are under the hegemony of Albanian organised crime which illustrates their rising power within the trafficking environment of the new order of the MTTOs in Europe. This Albanian illicit migrant pipeline has now mirrored the drug pipeline to Europe from the Caribbean by placing illicit Albanian migrants in the Dominican Republic.

The EUROPOL press release on the report speaks to the use of smuggling methods that pose grave threats to the lives of the illicit migrants attributing their use to the heightened effectiveness of law enforcement. In the reality of human smuggling grave smuggling methodology is generally reserved for low end clientele the purchasers of the “budget package”. Those illicit migrants who have purchased the services of a low end smuggling group who are noted for taking grave risks with the lives of their clients and are quite willing to break the contract with their clients with various actions as kidnapping for ransom and selling them into slavery have then placed their lives in jeopardy with this choice made. These smuggling groups prey on the least resourced and more vulnerable illicit migrants. Effective law enforcement simply raises their propensity for barbarity.

The report indicated the use of Russia as a transition point for the smuggling of illicit migrants into the EU along the eastern borders of the EU. This transition zone is dominated by Russian organised crime thereby illustrating the organisational linkages existing between Russian and EU organised crime and the complexity of the operational terrain of organised crime in the EU. It’s truly globalised.

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