ANKARA

Human traffickers are taking advantage of the global health crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, the EU’s police agency said Friday.

According to a report by the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) of the Europol, “criminals are finding new ways to abuse the vulnerability of irregular migrants wishing to enter or travel across Europe and those financially struggling, victimised in labour or sexual exploitation schemes.“

The EMSC said smugglers use cargo trains, small boats to cross river borders and the English Channel and concealments in freight vehicles in the time of travel restrictions.

Report also said: “Travel restrictions complicate the seasonal work in the agriculture sector, possibly increasing the demand for trafficked third-country migrants in this area.”

Some 19,211 network members were identified in 5,853 operations in 2019, it added.

“We expect a continuous demand for organised migrant smuggling services in the Western Balkans and neighbouring countries, due to enhanced border control measures that are likely to be only slowly removed, combined with the persisting high numbers of stranded migrants in Greece and the Western Balkans,” the report noted.

“Along with the continued smuggling in compartments in freight vehicles and cargo trains, we expect smuggling networks to more intensely use small and dirt roads across the region’s borders and boats to cross river borders.

“The region will thus remain a hotspot for the facilitation of secondary illegal migratory movements from Greece towards other EU countries,” it also said.

In another report on March 27, Europol also warned that fraudsters are taking advantage of the global health crisis.

Europol shed light on four main categories of crimes: cybercrime, fraud, counterfeit and substandard goods, and organized property crime.

Since appearing in China last December, the virus has spread to at least 188 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

More than 4.48 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, with over 303,300 deaths, and more than 1.6 million recovered.

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