Interpol launches initiative against migrant smuggling

INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have launched a new project designed to fight migrant smuggling and human trafficking in the Americas. 

Based on the successful model of previous INTERPOL-led operations, Project Turquesa will leverage the strengths of both organizations to ensure a whole-of-justice approach to migrant smuggling and human trafficking. 

With organized crime groups earning billions of dollars from their operations, Latin American and Caribbean countries serve as territories of origin, transit and destinations for these crimes. 

Given that human trafficking and migrant smuggling are highly gendered crimes that affect men, women, and children differently, gender considerations will be mainstreamed throughout the project. Furthermore, particular attention will be paid to ensuring full respect for the rights of smuggled migrants and victims of trafficking. 

According to INTERPOL, so far a lack of reliable data coupled with a need for increased cooperation between investigators and prosecutors has hampered the ability to effectively address these crimes, both in the Americas and worldwide. UNODC’s 2022 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, for example, noted that the number of convictions for trafficking in persons (TIP) fell an alarming 27 per cent in 2020 over the previous year. 

To address this, Project Turquesa will provide research as well as operational and strategic analysis to improve understanding of the routes, trends, and modus operandi of migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons in Latin America and Caribbean countries. Training and operational justice plans will be provided to both prosecutors and law enforcement officers to help build their capacity to investigate the often closely related crimes. 

Technical support to existing cross-regional networks and tools, meanwhile, will help increase capacity of investigators and prosecutors in beneficiary countries to cooperate at the national and regional levels. 

“INTERPOL’s four Turquesa operations have led to nearly 800 arrests, the identification of thousands of victims, and 270 new investigations. Strong cooperation with the UNODC during these actions provided a clear springboard for this joint initiative, and we look forward to safeguarding vulnerable communities together,” said INTERPOL’s Secretary General Jürgen Stock. 

“UNODC is proud to join this collaborative effort to end human trafficking and migrant smuggling,” said Ghada Waly, executive director of UNODC. “Across Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond, we are providing valuable technical assistance and capacity-building to enhance law enforcement responses, dismantle trafficking networks, and ensure justice for victims. By joining forces with INTERPOL through Project Turquesa, we can take this support to the next level, by ensuring a coordinated, global response to these transnational challenges and leave no one behind.” 

Project Turquesa is a two-and-a-half-year initiative funded by the Government of Canada through its Anti- Crime Capacity Building Programme.