May 4th, 2023- The recent virtual gathering of the Community of Law Enforcement Practitioners (COLEP) under the Budapest Process dialogue focused on addressing Smuggling of Migrants (SoM) and Trafficking in Persons (TiP) in the digital sphere. Held on May 4th, 2023, the third COLEP meeting brought together 22 law enforcement officials and experts from the 9 member countries of COLEP. The co-chairs of COLEP, Bulgaria and Iraq, chaired the meeting and the following sessions focused on identifying best practices, lessons learned and opportunities for cooperation on digital law enforcement strategies.
Participants acknowledged that criminals have adapted quickly to exploit digital platforms, necessitating continuous efforts to keep pace with evolving criminal tactics. The meeting served as a catalyst for knowledge sharing and highlighted the importance of ongoing discussions in countering SoM and TiP in the digital realm.
The meeting emphasized the significance of police-to-police cooperation and the exchange of information in combatting transnational criminals. In terms of capacities, it was highlighted that:
- The high volume of encrypted data from online exchanges can be hard for law enforcement agencies to analyse;
- Criminals often quickly adapt and respond to law enforcement actions (re-publishing of advertisements that have been taken down is cheap so there must be vigilance for this);
- There are difficulties in getting social media companies to take down messages or cooperate in investigations; and when they do cooperate, the process takes too long.
These few insights into the discussions led to partners exploring good practices and opportunities for growth.
As a follow up, the co-chairs of COLEP, in collaboration with the Budapest Process Secretariat, will organise the next meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, scheduled in autumn 2023 building upon the conclusions of this online event.