Europe’s problems with criminal trafficking gangs and illegal immigration are getting worse, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned, just days after the United Nations (UN) claimed that boat arrivals were “necessary” for the continent.
Pointing to a sharp rise in the number of attempted crossings from Africa along with the emergence of increasingly sophisticated ways of trafficking people across borders within the EU, the NCA revealed authorities in Europe are struggling to deal with smuggling gangs and immigration-related crime.
Criminal networks are making profits of up to £6 billion a year from charging would-be migrants, the majority of whom are from Africa, said Tom Dowdall, the agency’s deputy director of organised immigration crime.
According to the Daily Mail, the crime agency chief reported that attempted crossings to Spain and Italy have risen 75 per cent from last year while the Italian government’s crackdown on NGO boats has resulted in a “bottleneck” of 700,000 migrants currently in Libya who are waiting to get to Europe.
In picking people up from so close to the Libyan border and ferrying them directly to EU ports, open borders NGOs have been ‘inadvertently’ assisting the work of criminal traffickers, the NCA’s Chris Hogben warned.
“They make it easier for the crime groups who now send a boat with not enough fuel on purpose as they know they will be picked up,” he said.
News from the NCA briefing came after the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday demanded Italy slash restrictions on so-called search and rescue operations carried out by foreign NGOs.
“Any vessel with the capability to assist search and rescue operations should be allowed to come to the aid of those in need and subsequently allowed to disembark at the nearest appropriate safe port,” insisted UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley, stressing that “saving lives must be the key priority”.