People smuggling is one of the most profitable illicit activities. Recently, it has been calculated that the estimated revenue for smugglers that smuggle migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States reaches almost 7,000 million USD per year.
In the region, for organized crime groups, smuggling people across borders is normally a “low-risk, high-profit” business. Smugglers benefit from typically weak detection capacities that result in the relatively slim risk of being detected, arrested and prosecuted.
In the region, cases of migrants, including very vulnerable ones, abandoned by smugglers in high risk places are common. Very often, smuggled migrants who have been abandoned suffer injuries andsome even die.
More recently, smuggled migrants are increasingly becoming victims of numerous crimes in Mesoamerica, such as rape, extortion and kidnapping. Many of those who cannot pay extortion or rescue have been killed. Migrants and their families rarely denounce these crimes due to fear of the smugglers or because they have no confidence in the authorities.
Moreover, numerous other crimes are oftentimes linked to people smuggling – human trafficking, identity fraud, corruption and money laundering – creating shadow governance systems that undercut the rule of law. This situation calls for enhanced international cooperation between the concerned States’ law enforcement agencies, international organizations and other relevant actors.
IOM in the region supports States in embedding procedures and processes that permit law enforcement agencies to more effectively target those responsible for organizing people smuggling which also complement the initiatives in place against trafficking in human beings.
For instance, IOM helps governments to identify and source technical equipment required in the detection of smugglers. IOM also promotes the use of the Personal Information and Registration System (PIRS), IOM’s Border Management Information System, which can be a valuable tool in the fight against smuggling.The system can be connected to national and international alert lists such as Interpol’s and can therefore enable authorities to gather intelligence against organized criminal gang movements and to formulate risk profiles that can assist in identifying both the perpetrators and their victims at an early stage in the process.
Moreover IOM also provides a comprehensive range of training courses designed to equip border officials with the skills necessary to develop and refine intelligence, detect fraudulent travel documents and to be aware of relevant legislation, especially those related to migrants´ rights and migrant smuggling.
Also, IOM conducts border control and migration management assessments that enable States to identify areas for development ,strengthen their immigration and border structures, and support the development of operational measures and legal instruments to counter smuggling and related criminal activities. Regional research is also carried out by IOM’s country offices to better understand the dynamics behind people smuggling.
WHY IS IOM INVOLVED IN COUNTER MIGRANT SMUGGLING?
The large-scale smuggling of migrants across international borders has developed into a global threat to migration governance. Many migrants resort to using migrant smugglers when they do not have the option to travel in a regular manner. Consequently, migrant smugglers have become an integral part of the irregular migration journey resulting in significant profits for criminal networks. Once paid, smugglers often have little or no interest in migrants’ wellbeing, leaving them particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. All too often, migrants also pay with their lives: they suffocate in containers, perish in deserts or drown at sea.