Europol has received intelligence on some 7,000 suspected migrant smugglers, the vast majority of them male and on average aged 35, according to recent data collected by the European Union’s law enforcement agency in the past six months.
The same data suggest a drop in the number of smugglers from Syria, Iraq and the Mahreb region, coupled with an increase in traffickers from Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa.
Smuggling fees have also risen sharply over the same period, Europol said. Until recently, individuals wishing to illegally cross borders paid 2,000-5,000 euros to get from their home country to their final destination, usually a country like Germany, France or Sweden. It is estimated that migrants now pay up to 3,000 euros just to reach their entry point to the EU.
One of the reasons is that journeys which were once completed in a couple of weeks can now take several months, the agency said. Higher fees and longer trips have also accentuated labor exploitation, as an increasing number of migrants are forced to work to cover the cost of their travel.
According to data from 2016, 5 percent of migrants said they had to work to pay back their traffickers, up from 0.2 percent last year.