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ORGANISED ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

INTO THE EUROPEAN UNION

Introduction
Migration is a very old and complex subject both as a • positive economic situation;
societal issue and a criminal problem. It is not possible to • democratic systems of government, political and social
quantify the criminal problem, due to its nature, and it is stability;
difficult to define exactly who the perpetrators and victims
are. Whilst human rights organisations advocate freedom of • historical links;
movement to ensure safe and legal migration opportunities • common languages;
for refugees, political and law enforcement bodies advocate
• existing communities;
increased border controls and legal constraints to stop the
influx of illegal immigrants without justifiable asylum claims. • continued reporting of a declining population;
The reasons that migrants leave their home countries • expectations, often spin-offs from media reporting.
continue to exist and in some cases are worsening. Such
criteria, typically termed ‘push factors’ include: Migration itself is not illegal. However, it becomes illegal
when individuals themselves or with the assistance of
• dissolution and disintegration of multicultural states, organised criminal groups attempt to enter countries
accompanied by religious and ethnic conflicts; clandestinely due to the fact that they may not enter or stay
• natural disasters, the progressive destruction of major in a country legitimately. The Europol definition of organised
ecosystems and the associated global warming as a illegal migration according to its Convention is:
result of the industrial economic system; “...activities intended deliberately to facilitate, for financial
• discrimination on various grounds; gain, the entry into, residence or employment in the territory
of the Member States of the European Union, contrary to
• political instability, civil wars and continuing armed
the rules and conditions applicable in the Member States.”
conflicts throughout the world;
Asylum Applications
• poor economic situation;
It is impossible to accurately determine the number of
• uncontrollable population growth; vast differences
immigrants either attempting or succeeding to enter the
in population and economic growth (both excessive
Member States illegally due to the clandestine nature of the
population growth and excessively rapid economic
crime. However, asylum applications in the Member States
growth, which often brings real advantages and
can be used as an indication concerning the nature of the
prosperity only to the few);
flow of immigrants into the European Union from other
• impoverishment, as a result of failing or lack in the areas of the world.
social welfare systems.
While such data should not be used to quantify illegal
The accompanying ‘pull factors’, those criteria that make immigrants, it is a valuable reflection of the amount of
a destination country attractive, ensure that the Member clandestine entries in many of the Member States due to
States of the European Union remain desirable countries the fact that many of these applications are made inland.
for immigrants to attempt to reach and to stay in. These This suggests that the applicants have already entered
factors include: the country, successfully avoiding detection. Being ‘un-
• needs for extra labour force; documented’ on entry can be an ‘advantage’ when applying
for asylum and can also serve to protect the identity and
• comprehensive social security;
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modus operandi of the facilitator and therefore, reduce the The Involvement of Organised Crime (OC)
chance of either repatriation or return to another country
assessed to be a ‘first safe country’ that has been transited. Illegal immigration, particularly, facilitated illegal immigration,
is a continuously growing problem in the European Union
Furthermore, a high proportion of illegal immigrants misuse Member States. Since the list of nationalities trying to enter
the asylum system which often serves as a temporary the EU illegally is endless, the social, economic and political
’resting place’ while the asylum process takes place. It also consequences of this smuggling are likely to be the one of
enables the illegal immigrants to continue their journey to the most serious concerns for the EU.
their desired destination or even to apply for asylum in other
European countries (asylum shopping), thus contravening The facilitation of illegal immigrants has increased
the rule of first safe country. throughout the world. The problem has been exacerbated
in size and seriousness by the growing involvement
Nevertheless, since the implementation of EURODAC of organised crime groups and the emerging trend
(operational since January 2003) ‘asylum shopping’ has of ‘combining’ several traditional crime areas (cross
decreased. To have fingerprints of asylum applicants - and commodity smuggling).
to check them - in a common database has been shown to
be an effective tool in curbing asylum shopping. However, The methods by which illegal immigrants are smuggled
as a tragic spin-off effect, this is highly likely to have led to into the EU vary, often according to their region of origin,
an increase in the risks and dangers needed to be taken by but there is a fair degree of consistency amongst illegal
the illegal immigrants during their journey towards the EU. immigrants from the same region tending to use facilitators
The goal for these illegal immigrants is to apply for asylum having the same ethnic background. Recently, some
only in their desired destination country which implies that intelligence suggests that this pattern is changing to a more
the illegal immigrant needs to travel clandestinely or at mixed facilitation network. This tendency raises serious
least without revealing their true identity before the goal is concerns since the criminal organisations are developing
reached. The criminal organisations behind the facilitation their markets, strengths and qualities to an even higher
need to undertake an extra effort which again raises the level. Additionally, there is the possibility that OC groups are
payments for the smuggling. ‘driving the market’ in search of further profits, encouraging
people who would otherwise have no intention of emigrating
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The asylum figures in the EU are generally decreasing , to pay large sums.
except in Cyprus, Malta and Greece. The implementation To a large extent, OC groups facilitating illegal immigration
of EURODAC is most probably one of the reasons for the can also be found within the ethnic communities already
general decrease, but other global reasons must also form present in EU Member States. This can be seen as one
part of the explanation. of the ‘pull factors’. It is well known that different OC
In the first three months of 2005, the number of applications groups often co-operate with each other, particularly in
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lodged in the European Union decreased 17% compared moving commodities across multiple borders/states . This
to the previous year and 30% compared to 2003. North co-operation has already extended into the new Member
America and Australia have reported similar trends with States and with the planned enlargement of the EU, this is
decreases in the number of applications. likely to further increase the opportunities for OC groups
seeking new criminal markets and, at the same time,
The situation in the Balkans over the years has been
to gain new territories from which to organise criminal
reflected in the statistics, with both a significant increase in
activities.
the number of applicants from Balkan countries, followed
by a significant decrease in numbers in the last years. The areas currently of most concern to the Member States
are:
The highest number of applications in the EU during the
first six months of 2005 was lodged by citizens of Serbia & • the significant numbers of illegal immigrants from:
Montenegro, followed by the Russian Federation, Turkey, –the Balkan region;
Iraq and China. –the Russian Federation;
Chinese citizens do not traditionally apply for asylum, partly –China;
because of a lack of reasons to claim asylum. However,
–Iraq and the Sub-Saharan countries;
China with its 1,300,000,000 citizens, many of whom suffer
poor living conditions, can be assessed to become the major –India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
source country in relation to immigration as well as illegal
immigration into the European Union in the near future. 2 For example, illegal immigration now often takes advantage of pre-existing routes/networks established

1 UNHCR figures of lodged asylum applications, “second quarter 2005” for trafficking narcotics. Both ‘commodities’ can be moved in parallel and even sometimes together

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• the use of the following regions as nexus points to enter Three of the most commonly used transit countries before
the EU: reaching the external borders of the EU are Russia
(Moscow), Ukraine (Kiev) and Turkey (Istanbul), which
–the Balkans;
are used as either departure points or assembly points
–North Africa; for the onward journey to the EU. In addition, the Balkans
–Russia; (Sarajevo and Belgrade) is still considered to be a widely
used transit region for onward travel into the EU, as well as
–East Europe. North Africa, i.e. from Morocco to Spain and from Tunisia
Modus Operandi and Libya to Italy.
Routes Other than these routes, illegal immigrants – particularly
Generally speaking, and in its most simplistic way, from source countries far away from the EU – also use
one might say that any given smuggling route used direct air routes when targeting the EU. European-wide
by traffickers and illegal immigrants targeting the EU joint operations, most of them supported by Europol, have
comprises a certain distance starting in a source country revealed that Europe’s international airports are some of
outside the EU and ending in a destination country within the major hubs for illegal entries. The twin elements of ever-
the EU, most often using one or more transit countries expanding international flight connections and low-cost
along the journey. The transit countries can be situated airfares offer a lot of different transit possibilities to reach
either outside and/or inside the EU. Some of the closest the desired final destinations which are widely misused by
EU neighbouring countries are used as major nexus points the facilitators of illegal migration. Therefore, worldwide air
before the final clandestine leg of the journey into the EU. traffic routes have to be considered when routes into the
The geographical relationships between source, transit EU are discussed.
and destination countries and the existing transportation Falsified Documentation
systems naturally define the main routes used by the people
smugglers. As a result of the identification and exploitation Although the simplest method of entry into the Member
of weaknesses in the existing immigration control regimes States appears to be by concealment inside a vehicle
by organised crime groups, certain favoured routes have of some sort, improved border controls have led to the
evolved. These routes can be identified as follows: increased use of more sophisticated and high quality
falsifications of travel documents3.
• The Eastern Mediterranean Route;
Forged or falsified documentation is more likely to appear at
• The North African Route; sea ports and airports where documentation invariably will
• The Balkan Route; be checked. However, the general quality of falsifications of
travel documents has now reached a level where it is hardly
• The West African Atlantic Coast Route;
possible to spot the forgeries, even for skilled staff, which
• The Central and Eastern European Route; explains how falsified documents can be expected to show
• The Baltic Route. up anywhere.

The North African route is seen to carry the largest volume The majority of illegal immigrants entering the EU are not in
of illegal immigrants into the EU. The Central and Eastern possession of genuine identity documents. The facilitation
European route seems to be increasing in importance, networks also assist the illegal immigrants with the provision
whereas the impact of the Baltic route has declined and is of fraudulent travel documents (counterfeited, stolen or
on the limit of being looked upon as a general route. altered) to conceal the illegal immigrants’ true identity. In
some cases facilitators take back bogus documents to re-
These people smuggling corridors function as large use them later.
passageways with several nexus points; these are relatively
fixed points along a given route where particular services Criminal networks are known to target embassies/consulates
or opportunities are available (e.g. safe houses, illicit to obtain travel documents (mainly visas but also passports)
border crossing points, transport terminals etc). The actual under the pretext of legal business activity or through the
geographic route, and the means of transportation used, tourist travel sector4. Visas are sometimes ‘honestly’ issued
between each nexus point can vary greatly, but to a large on the basis of bogus supporting documents such as fake
extent the nexus points remain constant. invitations and hotel bookings.
3 The issue of false and/or counterfeit documents is also an increasing problem in other areas of

crime.
4 ‘Legitimate
travel agencies’ usually organise the illegal entries by providing the camouflage papers
needed to pose as “tourist groups” either by land or by air.

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One cause for concern is the frequency with which blank Crime (UN Resolution A/RES/55/25, 15Nov 2000, known
passports and visas are stolen from consulates around as Palermo Convention) which will contribute to the combat
the world. These are then easily altered and “issued” to against facilitated illegal immigration at an international
illegal immigrants and/or for other persons with criminal level. The EU enforcement co-operation is led by Europol,
intentions. which channels the joint reaction from the different agencies
in the Member States.
The use of other documentation, such as seaman books
and joining letters from shipping companies and mercantile The EU, from the highest political levels, continues to place
marine organisations, are also used to allow illegal the combating of organised illegal immigration as a priority
immigrants to enter or transit without visa. crime area together with terrorism, money laundering,
counterfeiting currency, drugs trafficking and trafficking of
Sometimes forgers and manufacturers of counterfeit
human beings.
documents offer their services to the highest bidder on
websites by advertising all types of travel documents from The political possibilities to curb organised illegal
around the world. immigration are limited, but the political influence in regards
to legislation, policies and unified strategies is a necessary
The main types of documentation used to facilitate illegal
compliment in the combat against illegal immigration.
entry into the EU include:
Europol offers assistance to law enforcement activities in
• Passports - the different types of false passports
the Member States on an operational level and by producing
detected include those that are entirely faked, those
assessments of the threat from organised illegal immigration
that have been altered (perhaps by the replacement of
on a strategic, pan-European Union level. In addition, it
the photograph) and those that are used which belong
initiates and/or supports cross-border investigations with
to another person with similar features.
analytical and operational expertise.
• Visas - these are also falsified as described above with
passports and there are also cases where visas are
fraudulently obtained, for example by claiming to be a
student or a tourist.
• Permits - residence and work permits are also
susceptible to forgery. It is also evident that immigrants
are claiming asylum in one Member State whilst already
holding a residence permit for another.
• The misuse of genuine travel documents by imposters,
the so-called “look-a-likes” is also widely exploited
especially amongst some nationalities.
The response
Facilitated illegal immigration continues to be of one of the
major concerns for the authorities of the Member States. The
high level of attention given to organised illegal immigration
is largely the result of media reporting of incidents such as
those in the Mediterranean Sea where often immigrants,
mainly from the African continent, drown due to the difficult
and dangerous journey when attempting to reach the
southern coastlines of the EU.
The experience and ruthlessness of the criminal
networks and their ability to work across international
borders necessitates the most serious response from law
enforcement authorities throughout the European Union. In
this regard, the EU law enforcement community welcomes
the entry into force of the Protocol against the Smuggling of
Migrants by Land, Air and Sea, supplementary to the United
Nations Convention against Transnational Organised