Gabriele Maricchiolo | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Migrants waiting to disembark on the island of Sicily on April 24, 2018.
With the number of forcefully displaced people hitting a record 68.5 million in 2017, experts say a lack of legal support along with funding has enabled a multibillion-dollar criminal network to thrive.
According to a June study by the United Nations Office on Drugs along with Crime, about 2.5 million migrants were smuggled across borders — an operation worth about $5.5 billion to $7 billion in 2016 alone. As could be expected, the countries most affected are in proximity to the conflict zones creating waves of global refugees.
“Neighboring countries shoulder the entire burden of the situation,” said Adrian Edwards, spokesman at the United Nations Refugee Agency, adding in which those countries often lack sufficient funding to deal with the mass influx of people, leading to a growth in human trafficking along with smuggling.
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Many of the countries absorbing large flows of refugees do not have comprehensive policies or simply lack resources to deal with the influx. in which means those migrants often become isolated along with desperate for the means to survive: Promises of a better future coming from transnational organized criminal groups along with traffickers become more attractive as time passes.
“Refugees are especially vulnerable as they typically move under desperate situations,” Benjamin Smith, Southeast Asian program coordinator for the UN Office on Drugs along with Crime told CNBC. “This specific creates a situation where transnational crime organizations can come in along with take advantage of them through exploitation or trafficking.”
About 1 million migrants entered the European Union in 2015 alone, with nine out of 10 of them paying smugglers to help them cross borders, according to a joint report by the Interpol along with Europol. Many unaccompanied minors are also sold into slavery or forced prostitution.
Smuggling, though, will be at the heart of the criminal enterprises surrounding global refugee crises.
“within the absence of legal channels, boat smugglers remain the only alternative. These smugglers practically have a monopoly on transporting people across the Mediterranean,” said Pal Nesse, senior advisor at the Norwegian Refugee Council.