Austria is set to take control of the European police agency Europol and has vowed to increase resources into tackling human trafficking rings smuggling migrants into Europe.
In January 2018, Austria will take command of Europol and already the conservative-populist wave which brought victory for conservative Austrian People’s Party leader Sebastian Kurz is having an influence on how it will be run.
Gerald Tatzgern, an expert on human trafficking at the Federal Criminal Police Office, is set to lead a new offensive against smuggling gangs, Kronen Zeitung reports.
Tatzgern is also looking at adding another four staff members in the human trafficking division and said the aim of the group will be to pursue traffickers and shut down migrant routes.
He said that Europol will also look extensively into the financials of the human trafficking gangs. “Follow the money, then you will uncover the criminal structures,” he said.
Tatzgern hopes to also uncover the migrant smugglers operating in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey to stop people trafficking at the source.
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka announced tougher measures on human trafficking at a conference in Bern, Switzerland. Sobotka said: “We have to put a stop to criminal smugglers and stop the deaths in the Mediterranean.”
He said that Austria was working with several African countries to crack down on people traffickers but also said that deportations of illegal migrants from Austria would be a priority for the new populist-conservative coalition government.
“Voluntary return is a top priority, but if a person has no right to remain in a state, involuntary repatriation must also be possible,” he said.
While the coalition talks between the ÖVP and the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) are ongoing, both parties have expressed a dramatic shift on mass migration issues.
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Incoming Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said he wants to shut down the Mediterranean migrant route entirely or place migrants on islands for processing, while FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache has called for a larger focus on deportations of illegal migrants.
“We do not need an upper limit, nor a halving of the upper limit – we need a zero-migration, in fact, a minus-migration, because of all the illegals and criminals who are in the country,” Strache said earlier this year.