By Griff Witte and Anthony Faiola
August 29, 2015 - 2:40pm EDT
The Washington Post
The smugglers responsible for driving 71 migrants to their deaths in the back of a cramped, unventilated truck in Austria were part of a vast international syndicate that has been a subject of multiple criminal investigations, a leading European law enforcement official said Saturday.
So far, just four relatively low-level operatives have been arrested in connection with the deaths, which were discovered on Thursday when authorities pried open the door to an abandoned truck emitting a noxious odor on the main highway between Budapest and Vienna.
But Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, said in an interview that his organization and national law enforcement agencies were “working urgently” to catch the ringleaders of an operation that epitomizes the rapid expansion and increasing sophistication of human smuggling networks across the continent.
“It was a direct hit in our systems,” said Wainright, whose agency serves as the law enforcement arm of the 28-member European Union. “We were able to make intelligence connections with many other cases that we’re currently working on across Europe.”
The horrifying nature of the deaths has drawn attention as never before to the smugglers who have become instrumental and much-loathed players in the migrant crisis that is playing out across Europe.
From European capitals to the White House, leaders in recent days have called for a fresh crackdown on the networks that have enabled more than 300,000 migrants to reach the continent this year, while also leading at least 2,600 more to their deaths.
But the smugglers are becoming harder to combat as their operations become more agile, more international and more innovative in their use of new tools such as social media, Wainright said.
The exponentially growing scale, too, has proved a difficult impediment for police and intelligence services.
[...]That's all you're going to get from the Washington Post about the vast web; the article continues with a discussion of the freezer truck deaths, the most recent drowning of migrants off the coast of Libya, and political gridlock in Europe about the illegal immigration crisis.
But note the passing mention of the role that social media sites have played in the human trafficking, which the BBC examined in depth in May (The Facebook smugglers selling the dream of Europe). We need more such in-depth reports.