The role of the Internet
Trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants and asylum seekers have been evolving in the past few years in order to adapt to the ever changing geopolitical, technological and social contexts. This adaptation path involves also a massive use of the Internet in the various phases of the human trafficking and the smuggling processes (i.e. recruitment, transportation and – for THB – exploitation) both in origin/transit and destination countries.
Researchers have widely acknowledged the role of internet in the trafficking in persons. A group of specialists engaged by the Council of Europe found that ‘the Internet industry and the sex industry are closely interlinked and the scope, volume, and content of the material on the Internet promoting or enacting trafficking in human beings for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation … are unprecedented’.
It has been underlined how the Internet facilitates the role of traffickers because it ‘can rapidly connect buyers of commercial sex with trafficking victims while simultaneously distancing the perpetrator from the criminal transaction’ (Congressional Research Report, USA, 2011).
On the other hand, the territory of the use of technologies in smuggling of migrants and asylum seekers is much more unexplored, and the need to improve the knowledge on the issue is urgent. For instance, as it has been underlined by the Special meeting of the European Council of 23 April 2015 on smuggling of migrants, the European Union considers as a priority to ‘use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions’.