Europol Warns Migrant-Smuggling Surging as Lockdowns Ease

TOPSHOT - Migrants wait to be rescued by the Aquarius rescue ship run by non-governmental organisations (NGO) 'SOS Mediterranee' and 'Medecins Sans Frontieres' (Doctors Without Borders) in the Mediterranean Sea, 30 nautic miles from the Libyan coast, on August 2, 2017. Italy on August 2, 2017 began enforcing a controversial …

The European Union police agency Europol has warned that people-smuggling activities have surged as member-states soften lockdown measures to contain the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

Europol stated that the spread of the coronavirus had led to a decline in new arrivals of illegal immigrants and people-smuggling, but noted the relaxation of travel restrictions in Europe was coinciding with a new wave of smuggling activity.

“Small boats are increasingly used to cross river borders. Migrants are also smuggled in, hidden in freight vehicles and freight trains that still cross borders,” the agency said, Ouest France reports.

Some European countries did not see illegal arrivals fall as lockdowns were introduced, of course, with the United Kingdom seeing record numbers of boat migrants crossing the English Channel from infectious camps on the French coast, and Boris Johnson’s government doing nothing to turn them back.

Europol also said that agriculture could be affected by the travel restrictions as seasonal migrant workers would find it more difficult to enter European countries, suggesting this would drive up demand for illegal migrant workers.

In Italy, a spokesman for illegal migrant labourers threatened a general strike if the Italian government did not grant amnesty to illegals, many of whom work in the Italian agricultural sector.

He was met with criticism by populist senator Matteo Salvini, who said: “The problem is that if we continue to regularise irregular immigrants we have slaves, I don’t want people to go to work in the fields for three euros an hour and the mass amnesty brings more exploitation.”

Italy has also seen a new surge in migrant arrivals in recent weeks via the Mediterranean Sea, with migrants landing on the island of Lampedusa and in Sicily.

Migrants arriving in Italy have been placed in quarantine due to the coronavirus, with the government recently hiring a ferry off the coast of Sicily to house the quarantined migrants.

A recent report revealed that Italian taxpayers were paying 4,000 euros a month per quarantined migrant.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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