While immigration stories are often full of hope, starting a new life in a new land, those stories can also be dark and terrible. Where people lack legal permission and documentation to migrate, criminal organizations see lucrative potential to move them across borders illicitly for money. Tragically, the operation of such schemes typically prioritizes profit over the safety of the people being transported, which often leads to mass casualty events, largely outside the public view.
The UK National Crime Agency (NCA) reports that illicit entry via small boat crossings is dramatically increasing. At the same time, criminals are loading more and more people onboard these rigid-hulled inflatable boats, increasing passenger peril. International by nature, these enterprises are often coordinated by organized crime groups. Organized immigration crime by land and air occurs alongside these water crossings as well, and the people being moved face many other dangers beyond that of the travel itself.
Exploitation of irregular immigrants often continues after their arrival. Gangs may impose crossing fees that are too high for people to pay, but which desperate people often agree to nevertheless, creating a form of indentured servitude based on that debt bondage. Many are simply forced into labour without such pretence, in the horrifying practice of modern slavery. Lawful intelligence provides the means to disrupt these clandestine networks and the harm they cause.
Building Chains of Evidence Against the Criminal Enterprises
The scope of human smuggling rings is much larger than the clandestine crossings alone. Investigations can draw evidence from a rich array of the group’s operations. One source is outreach to potential immigrants, which is analogous to advertising by legitimate businesses and therefore built to be found. Initial contact is often made using social media, providing the potential for lawful interception by law enforcement agencies (LEAs). The crime groups often leave additional footprints on social media related to adjacent activities, such as selling fraudulent identity documents.
Another aspect of organized immigration crime that may aid in its detection using lawful intelligence is that these criminal groups must have significant supply chains in order to operate. For example, water crossings require boats, engines, and life boats to be sourced, often internationally, and then staged at chosen locations. In addition to these financial and logistical transactions, patterns may also by revealed by purchases of boat fuel and other supplies on a regular basis.
Large amounts of cash change hands across all aspects of these activities. The transactions themselves and/or money laundering related to them provide an additional potential source of evidence. Likewise, communications among the individuals involved, location intelligence, and other online sources of information can create a particularly rich fabric of lawful intelligence. At the same time, the criminal networks involved can be challenging to discern across multiple jurisdictions.
The SS8 platform has developed over decades of collaboration with international law enforcement to rapidly uncover and query against evidence that helps illuminate the criminal acts, disrupt the exploitation, and bring the perpetrators to justice. It excels in stitching together otherwise-disconnected scraps of information to reveal patterns and broader narratives. It exemplifies the resources that LEAs require to address organized immigration crime and the related crimes of human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable people.
Patterns of Enforcement to Interrupt Harm
Examples of organized immigration crime and law enforcement response can illuminate the ways that lawful intelligence can be brought to bear. For example, a crime syndicate that smuggles people using small boats must maintain a fleet of those craft, which they have to purchase, store, and maintain. Staging areas for these operations offer physical evidence of the crimes, which may be revealed by artifacts from asset purchases, facilities rentals, and surveillance video. As the criminal activities become larger and more established, the scope of evidence becomes more extensive.
In the particularly high-profile case known as the “Essex lorry deaths,” 39 Vietnamese migrants suffocated in a trailer operated by a long-running smuggling operation into the UK. The investigation was massive and involved authorities from multiple jurisdictions, including Vietnam, Belgium, Ireland, and the UK. The truck cab made its way to Essex from Dublin through Holyhead Wales, while the trailer travelled separately through multiple waypoints in France and Belgium. Lawful intelligence measures successfully tracked the perpetrators, victims, and equipment involved through this international investigation and resulted in 15 arrests, saving an unknown number of people from future harm.
In a too-common scenario, trafficked individuals are forced into involuntary servitude that may range from common labour to prostitution. Offenders often control every aspect of victims’ lives over years, in patterns of abuse that create long-term trauma. Such crimes tend to create financial evidence such as money laundering and transfers away from victims, in addition to communications evidence associated with advertising trafficked individuals as illicit commodities.
The signals of criminal behavior in these examples are a small part of the broader lawful intelligence landscape of these crimes. Bringing together the full scope of such evidence and providing analysis and insight for investigators, the SS8 platform levels the playing field in this complex area of enforcement, helping protect society by saving vulnerable people from exploitation at the hands of criminal enterprises.
About David Anstiss
David Anstiss is Director of Solution Engineering at SS8 Networks. He has been with SS8 since 2015 and has significant experience in critical network architecture technology and advanced data analytics. He currently works as part of the Technical CTO Group under the leadership of Dr. Cemal Dikmen and is responsible for leading engagement with both intelligence agencies and Communication Service Providers (CSPs) around the world. He has been instrumental in helping them transition to 5G, defining system requirements to meet regulatory compliance. As a member of ETSI, he represents SS8 to ensure the adoption of cloud-native infrastructure is met with industry best practices and to guarantee that compliance of lawful interception is maintained. Learn more about David here on his LinkedIn profile.
About SS8 Networks
As a leader in Lawful and Location Intelligence, SS8 helps make societies safer. Our commitment is to extract, analyze, and visualize the critical intelligence that gives law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and emergency services the real-time insights that help save lives. Our high performance, flexible, and future-proof solutions also enable mobile network operators to achieve regulatory compliance with minimum disruption, time, and cost. SS8 is trusted by the largest government agencies, communications providers, and systems integrators globally.
Intellego® XT monitoring and data analytics portfolio is optimized for Law Enforcement Agencies to capture, analyze, and visualize complex data sets for real-time investigative intelligence.
LocationWise delivers the highest audited network location accuracy worldwide, providing active and passive location intelligence for emergency services, law enforcement, and mobile network operators.
Xcipio® mediation platform meets the demands of lawful intercept in any network type and provides the ability to transcode (convert) between lawful intercept handover versions and standard families.
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