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Migrants abandon small boat and lifejackets on Lesbos. Photo supplied

Will deconfinement explode migrant flows?

Slowed down by the pandemic, the smuggling of migrants could well start again as deconfinement continues in Europe, according to the European police agency Europol.

Published: May 17, 2020, 4:26 am

    The Hague

    Travel restrictions imposed in many countries due to the Coronavirus crisis have had a beneficial effect: illegal immigration has been greatly reduced. But with the gradual deconfinement of European countries, the continent may have to face an upsurge in migratory traffic, reported French daily Le Figaro.

    The newspaper cited an alert from the European police agency Europol. “Migration flows decreased during the confinements linked to Covid-19” , the migrants finding themselves “to a large extent” unable to move, noted Europol in a report published on Friday 15 May.

    “Relaxation of travel and movement restrictions will likely lead to an increase in the movements of irregular migrants, both facilitated and non-facilitated,” the agency based in The Hague warned. In addition, Europol has observed a change in operating mode for migrant smugglers, due to the reinforced border controls within the European Union. The means of travel were thus gradually transferred from the airways to the land and sea routes. “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,” explained the agency.

    Travel restrictions in Europe could also complicate the use of seasonal labor in the agricultural sector and increase the demand for clandestine migrants already present in certain regions, Europol warned. The agency also fears that the closure of establishments offering sexual services in countries where these activities are regulated will intensify sexual exploitation.

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