Human smuggling networks are advertising bespoke packages to immigrants online, complete with guides on the benefits systems and relative strengths of the border controls of EU countries, said European law enforcement agency Europol. Rob Wainwright, the head of the organisation, said that it had identified 3,000 smugglers suspected of trying to bring migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and north Africa to EU countries.
Europol is currently investigating smuggling operations in 13 countries, he said and is waging an online campaign against human smugglers offering their services on social media, with specialist software used to remove their adverts. "We are putting a lot of effort into that, working with social media firms to take down these sites," Wainwright told the Sunday Times. "The level of sophistication is increasing."
"They [the smugglers] are trying to attract a greater number of people, saying, 'We can get you to Europe, we can get you to the UK', and also an online layman's guide for which countries offer, for example, the best social welfare benefits [and] which countries have the strongest border controls," he said.
Wainwright said that some gangs offered an 'end-to-end' services, transporting immigrants all the way to their preferred destination. But others only provide transportation for single stages of the journey.
"Here are some that offer an end-to-end service where they say, 'We can get you to France or the UK through different stages of the journey', and giving you false documentation for a set fee of $15,000 [£9,500]," he said. "Others paying less will make five or six different hops along that route, being passed to different criminal groups each time," said Wainwright.