Asylum seekers wait to enter a transit camp after crossing the Macedonian-Serbian border. The United Nations says 210,000 asylum seekers transited through the Balkans in October in an effort to seek protection in Europe.

Whether trafficked or smuggled, immigrants can be exploited.

Lessons Learned in Serbia

October 2019, Number 09.04

“Discussions about human smuggling in Southeast Europe or along the “Balkan route” are mostly related to illegal immigrants and refugee flows. From 2015 to the middle of 2016, huge numbers of refugees and immigrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere passed through Balkan countries into Western Europe — with Germany being the most common destination.

Organized crime saw an opportunity when the Balkan route closed in 2016 and began arranging cross-border human smuggling trips. In contrast to human trafficking, human smuggling is always international and always a cross-border activity. Under international law, human smuggling is banned under the same  United Nations convention that bans human trafficking — the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime — but with the supplemental Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. This protocol defines human smuggling as “the procurement, to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a state party of which the person is not a national or permanent resident...”

Excerpt from Vladan Lukić, “Lessons Learned in Serbia,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues  9, No. 4, 2019: 32-37.

Vladan Lukić is chief police inspector at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia. He has served as a police commander in the Pozarevac Regional Directorate and is a graduate of the Academy of Criminalistic and Police Studies in Belgrade. He completed a master’s degree with a concentration on countering transnational organized crime from the International Security Studies program at the Marshall Center, in cooperation with the Universität der Bundeswehr München.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.