Cross-border Crime in the Time of COVID-19 Pandemic

To prevent the pandemic infection from spreading, governments approved lengthy quarantines advising the citizens to stay at home throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021. Due to the constraints derived from COVID-19 and besides the social aspects of modern life that have been heavily influenced, the impact was quite remarkable on irregular migration and illegal or criminal activities at borders, as well.

Cross-border crime includes both temporary piracy and dealing, as well as extreme instability that jeopardizes the EU external borders’ security. Illegal activities including stolen vehicles, drugs, weapons, cigarettes, dangerous synthetic compounds, and other items, are the most frequent crimes that could be observed at borders. Illegal border crossings through hardly accessible routes are one of the most difficult challenges that the relevant EU authorities face.

An interesting observation is that despite severe travel and movement restrictions the illegal flows still occurred during the last year and half. Furthermore, pandemic routines have an impact on criminal organizations in a variety of settings and situations, allowing them to adjust, create, and discover different emergency responses. The routes and illegal crossing paths have been altered.

Map of FRONTEX Latest Report on illegal border crossings.

According to FRONTEX latest report on irregular migration, the illegal border crossings along EU’s external borders fell 13% during 2020; the actual number of illegal border crossings was the lowest number since 2013. Given the fact that Eastern Mediterranean is one of the most frequently used route to access Europe, it should be highlighted that the arrivals decreased by 76% compared to last year’s numbers. On contrary the Western Balkans route has experienced a notable increase by almost 78% compared to the last year.

Considering COVID-19 pandemic and the changes on the patterns and the use of specific routes, illegal crossing and border crime should be moderated as soon as possible in order to avoid any further illegal cross border actions.

Under the above-mentioned need, BorderUAS has kicked off the work for employing the ground infrastructure of the control & command centres, new data model systems for the identification of illegal patterns of crossing, preferred routes, and enhanced audio and visual analytical and storage capabilities.

In addition, the BorderUAS solution engages policymakers, system designers, and border guard authorities to enhance decision-making process so as to address the aforementioned issues by complying with a baseline set of ethical, privacy, and human rights principles.