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Illegal Migrants | Nina’s GardenSome years ago, I interviewed with the Department of Citizenship and Immigration for an Intelligence Officer position. Each candidate had to prepare a persentation about illegal migration from an I…

Illegal Migrants

Posted on February 15, 2012

Some years ago, I interviewed with the Department of Citizenship and Immigration for an Intelligence Officer position. Each candidate had to prepare a persentation about illegal migration from an International/National Perspective.

I didn’t get the job – I was the least qualified applicant – because I was the only one who had no Canada Customs or Law Enforcement experience – but I had worked at RCMP for three years and the job posting said “experience working in a law enforcement environment.”

So – here’s the oral presentation that I did – and I placed number 8 of 40 candidates – now number 8 is low – but I started at the bottom of 50 applicants – and only 40 people were deemed qualified enough to write a knowledge exam about Intelligence and International Criminal Organizations – and of those 40 – only 10 of us – made it to the interview.

I was the least qualified – but I passed the exam and made it to the interview – placing 8th of 10 finalists. Not shabby for a workflow analyst and forms designer in a law enforcement environment – because my job at RCMP was making everyone else’s job at RCMP easier by streamling workflow and making forms user friendly – in a environment with very unfreindly users.

The Oral Presentation

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today about the issue of illegal migration. My name is Nina Tryggvason, and what I would like to touch on are three specific areas of this rather complex subject.

First, I would like to provide some global context and background of the conditions that may lead a portion of a population to illegally migrate.

Second, to provide a breakdown of the stages in a typical smuggling operation.

Third and finally, to touch on some strategies that the Intelligence Unit of Citizenship and Immigration may use to counter the strategies employed by the crime organization that profit from illegal migration.

I will be providing a copy of the full text and a list of reference material at the end of the presentation.

 Global Context of Illegal Migration

Trafficking in humans is a global problem, and not the exclusive domain of any particular country or region. Each year, an estimated four million people attempt to enter other countries illegally. With continued globalization of transportation and communication networks, the level of trafficking in humans can only increase over time, and is already a major global problem.

The transnational movement includes individuals and families fleeing civil war or political, religious or discriminatory persecution as well as those simply seeking better economic opportunities. Breakdowns or radical changes in social and legal structures often provide the impetus or opportunity for migration – legally or not.

The criminal syndicates exploiting this issue are assessed as earning at least $7 billion US for their efforts and the penalties for such activities are much lighter than, say, those applicable for drug or firearms trafficking. As it is likely that illegal migration operations are frequently run in parallel with other criminal operations, such as drug or firearms smuggling, sex slavery, money laundering, the annual profits for organized crime far exceeds this estimate.

Illegal Migration and Social Conditions that Set the Stage

International migration does not generally flow from countries that are either too poor or too well-off. In poor countries, the population’s energy is focused on sustaining life, and is removed from transportation and communications networks, thereby ignorant of other opportunities that initiate, facilitate and sustain international migration. In better off countries, staying at home usually outweighs the costs and risks of migrating.

It is from the mid-range countries, just emerging from extreme poverty, building its infrastructure and accumulating savings, but before the majority of its population has achieved a stable and comfortable standard of living, where international migration has generally surged.

Seven economic and social conditions contribute to accelerating international migration are:

  1. Large-scale displacement of labour from secure local economic roles (most commonly small farmers) as a consequence of economic development.
  2. National policies of land use, pricing, and reclamation that disfavour small farmers, increasing the necessity for farming households to seek other livelihoods.
  3. Infrastructure development that lowers the cost of travel to, communication with and cultural awareness of potential migration sites abroad.
  4. Increasing global economic integration that facilitates labour migration as part of patterns of international economic activity.
  5. Large income differentials between international migration sites (local towns and farther cities) that make international migration an attractive strategy as an alternative or complement to internal migration.
  6. Established networks of migrants that facilitate job-finding and settlement transactions (raising expected benefits and lowering risks) for migrants.
  7. Political policies in source and receiving countries that minimise the cost of migration and increase the possible rewards (e.g. allowing travel abroad from source countries, and receiving countries allowing settlement, work, and eventual citizenship).

Anatomy of a Smuggling Operation
A smuggling operation involves five steps:





Debt Collection

The recruiting phase is accomplished largely through informal word of mouth networks. Smugglers act as labour recruiters for often non-existent foreign-based employers. This approach is often successful because the potential migrants have unrealistic expectations about their prospects overseas and are gullible.

Alternately, parents may sell female offspring to “employment recruiters.” These girls, often quite young, end up working in slavery-brothels in other countries.

As few migrants can afford the smugglers’ fees, it is common that a contract to be signed. Contracts may allow for a down payment with the balance to be paid on arrival by relatives or the prospective employer, or the contract may be for a period of years for labour services. Such services usually result in the migrant working for minimal wages in sweatshops or entry level jobs in society (restaurants, laundromats, etc.) or in criminal activities for the smugglers’ gang in prostitution, drugs and other illegal activities.

The escaping phase may be conducted by air, land or sea travel. Bribery of local police, customs officers or members of the military may be used to facilitate escape by either land or sea, however it is difficult to gauge the extent of such corruption.

Air or land travel escape may mean a small group of six to 10 migrants posing as business people or tourists. This method is costly, and involves interactions with customs and/or evading border patrols.

Escape by sea is much easier and cheaper. Illegal migrants are ferried from the coastline to an island or to international waters, and then transferred to the smuggling vessel. Migrants are also being smuggled in shipping containers meant for non-living cargo directly out of ports.

The smuggling voyage phase, particularly in a sea voyage, fraught with peril for the migrant. The ships are usually barely sea-worthy, and the migrants are in extremely cramped quarters with minimal sewage containment, poor nourishment, little exercise or air and sun. These ships are at risk to sink and the migrants are at risk of being thrown overboard by crew evading arrest and charges.

In shipping containers, migrants are at constant risk of detection and have no ability to flee. Shipping errors or delays may result in death for migrants when food and water runs out.

The offloading phase, may mean transferring the migrants to smaller ferries or yachts, which can then slip into port. Or the ships may disembark migrants on remote coastlines, where the smugglers may have trucks waiting to take the migrants to “safe houses.” If in shipping containers, the local gang takes possession of the “cargo” at the dock.

The debt collection phase is ensured as a migrant is then picked up by local gangs and taken to a ‘safe house’ so that control over the migrant is obtained until his/her debt is discharged. Gang members often use torture, beatings and rape to intimidate their captives until the debt is paid. As a result, migrants are forced to work for the gangs who control them, either by entering into another labour contract or being forced into illegal activities.

Migrants often do not have the language skills or cultural and legal awareness of their new country to break away from the gang. Migrants are often told that local authorities would incarcerate or return migrants to their country of origin.

The role of the Intelligence Unit – Dealing with illegal migration

Illegal migration is an issue that involves fundamental issues of sovereignty, politics, diplomacy, morality, health and humanitarianism. Regardless of why people clandestinely leave their native country, criminal syndicates are ruthlessly exploiting this issue to serve their own interests. Open communications between source and receiving countries is the most effective tool that we have to combat this international human security issue.

The Intelligence unit should consider the following twelve strategies:

The Intelligence unit should consider the following twelve strategies:

  1. Provide strategic intelligence input into shaping the framework for immigration policy and enforcement procedures;
  2. Facilitate national and international inter-agency cooperation, intelligence sharing, surveillance, document and data examination and corroboration; and participating in international forums, including the Inter-Governmental Consultations Working Group based in Geneva;
  3. Strengthening relationships with stakeholders and partner agenciesinternationally and nationally but also with the provinces, the voluntary sector and Canadian citizens.
  4. Undertake training in cultural awareness in order to profile smugglers and migrant behaviours;
  5. Study geo-political issues that may lend themselves to increasing incidents of mass migrations, such as civil strife, repressive human rights conditions, and changing cultural norms and values;
  6. Conduct field inspections of work sites at small businesses in communities suspected of hiring undocumented workers, investigate business owners and their associates to explore the possible network of  yet to be identified criminal principles;
  7. As a deterrent, publicize the realities and inherent dangers of illegal migration in source countries;
  8. Criminal organizations are involved in a variety of smuggling activities – people, drugs weapons, yet law enforcement agencies are often compartmentalized into specific crime investigation or intelligence, all intelligence related to criminal syndicates should be collated to determine the commonalities.
  9. systematic approach should be taken to collating all gathered information; for example in the case of a ship transporting migrants, collate the vessel’s description, origin, registration details and condition; crew and passenger profiles; where and how crews were recruited; the route transited, including transit stops, fuel and provisioning arrangements; the identities of source country organizers and recipient country facilitators; the development of operational profiles, warnings and indicators, and prediction of future activities;
  10. Identify and remove individuals who are not entitled to enter or remain in Canada, whether they have illegally entered or simply remained after their visa expires;
  11. Be aware of advances in computer technologies that may assist in collating, data basing, evaluating or determining relationships between data, or in other pre-emptive technologies such as satellite surveillance, improved anti-counterfeit production of identification documents, etc.
  12. Monitor emerging telecommunication technologies, which are likely to be used by criminal organizations. It is often the case that while law enforcement agencies are under funded and under staffed for the job that they are doing, under funding is generally not the case for criminal organizations.


Combating this serious international humanitarian and criminal problem of illegal migration, requires a coordinated national and international effort to achieve an increased exchange of information, criminal intelligence and data on countermeasures.

As we are in a recipient country, the Intelligence Unit of Citizenship and Immigration Canada has a vested interest to act as a central intelligence data analysis clearing house for national and international agencies.


We do not choose what demographics groups we belong to as individuals – so discrimination against people who are less than 1% genetically different from yourself is not merely willful ignorance but unadulterated hatred of your fellow humans.

Not ready to make nice either | Nina’s GardenBecause the INDIVIDUAL is the social unit of consequence in a secular democracy with the FREEDOM to take LIBERTIES with what – or who – makes them HAPPY – The DISTANCE BETWEEN chu…

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