Agents Warned About People Smuggling Scam
The International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) has warned ship agents about the re-emergence of a scam that enables people smugglers to cover the movement of illegal migrants.
The basic pattern of the scam is for owners or managers to ask an agent to attend a vessel's call and to provide assistance with crew changes. Usually the owner or manager will be previously unknown to the agent.
The approach is a sham, but the agent’s involvement will provide cover for the migrants’ arrival in the country. The migrants will then promptly disappear, and the agent will be left with unpaid hotel bills and may face fines from immigration authorities as well as being liable for detention and repatriation costs if the migrants are caught.
The practice of people smuggling has seen a rise over the past few decades. It generally takes place with the consent of the person being smuggled, and common reasons for individuals seeking to be smuggled include employment or escape from persecution and conflict. Unlike human trafficking, people smuggling is characterized by the consent between customer and smuggler - a contractual agreement that typically terminates upon arrival in the destination location.
However, smuggling situations can involve human rights abuses, with smuggled people subject to threats, abuse, exploitation and torture. People involved in smuggling operations may also be victims of trafficking, for example when they are tricked into forced labor situations.
ITIC reminds all agents worldwide to be vigilant when being approached to carry out crew changes by owners or crew managers who are unknown to them.