In the current political environment of the European Union, the member states are engrossed in discussions about austerity measures and financial discipline. Issues concerning organised crime are not in the public eye. But, as we are experiencing today, in the midst of Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis, the role of different criminal organisations is becoming more and more important.
Organised crime has always been present and lucrative in EU countries and openly defies state laws and structures. Just a few months ago, TV channels showed the members of the mafia in Italy openly mourning in a grandiose way the death of their “boss” in Rome.
The lucrative and criminal activities of different mafias are reported in the media daily.
Crimes, such as forced prostitution, sex slavery, drugs and human trafficking, as well as cigarette and arms smuggling, protection rackets, loan-sharking, money laundering, corruption, baby trading etc., belong to a ‘package’ of activities undertaken by all mafia groups.
With the enlargement of the EU and the expansion of the Schengen zone over a larger territory, organised crime activities are growing stronger. Globalisation is also making the movement of criminals easier.
In many cases, as reported by the media, there were politicians who had ties to criminal bosses or were even involved themselves with organised criminal businesses.
Now, with Europe’s invasion of refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, we are facing a large-scale attack by the mafias.
The trafficking of refugees and migrants is the newest and most lucrative activity of organised criminals. It is less dangerous than drug smuggling and in some cases easier and more lucrative.
In a perfect collaboration between jihadist groups, warlords and mafias, the trafficking of human beings is creating one of the most acute problems in the history of the EU.
Each and every one of these factors is playing a role in pushing refugees and migrants toward Europe.
In August this year, 71 dead bodies of migrants were found in a truck by Austrian police. The investigation led to the discovery of an organised enterprise involving Bulgarian citizens as well as non EU citizens.
Last week, German and French authorities foiled human smuggling operations.
In Germany, the criminals were bringing refugees into the country by plane and sneaking others across the English Channel by boat, as reported by the Associated Press news agency.
The alleged head of the group of 17 suspects was arrested in the western city of Essen. Police also confiscated weapons and smuggled goods in the raids.
In France, the interior ministry said authorities had detained eight people accused of involvement in smuggling migrants to Britain on rubber boats from the northern French city of Dunkirk, reported the Associated Press.
Migrants and in many cases refugees make their way to the Middle East and Libya from South Asia and Africa. They come from countries with chronic security, health or food problems, such as Afghanistan or Somalia. Warlords and jihadist groups are key factors in this human mobilisation.
There, they are mixed with refugees from Iraq, Syria and Libya and then sail in boats and vessels owned by the smugglers to the coasts of Italy and Greece.
In Italy, as well as in the Balkans, different organised groups receive refugees and migrants as a part of the trafficking chain and handle their movement toward the richest countries of the EU, namely Germany and Sweden.
It is important to understand that the role of organised crime in the refugee crisis of today is crucial.
Humanitarian aid, diplomatic efforts and peace attempts will be useless without a decisive fight against the criminal groups.