Migrants wait to disembark on Spain's Gran Canaria Island. Migrants wait to disembark on Spain's Gran Canaria Island. 

Holy See calls for tools and action to fight smuggling of migrants

The Holy See participated in a working group on the smuggling of migrants organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

By Vatican News staff reporter

The Holy See has expressed concern over “uncontrolled payments through blockchain platforms and the dangerous role that the unregulated use of cryptocurrencies plays in the smuggling of migrants.”  Yuriy Tykhovlis made the statement on Thursday on behalf of Monsignor Janusz Urbanczyk, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Vienna, Austria.

He was speaking at the “Working Group on the Smuggling of Migrants,” organized by the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Oct. 14-15.

The murky world of cryptocurrency

“The use of cash payments to avoid transparency in recent years has shifted into the even less transparent world of digital payment and cryptocurrencies,” Tykhovlis said. He pointed out that while some online platforms oblige their senders and beneficiaries of remittances to identify themselves, some cryptocurrency platforms and virtual asset service providers do not request identification from their customers. This, the Holy See official said, only increases opportunities for money laundering and similar crimes.

Exploitation of migrants

As a case in point, he cited the Balkan Route where many migrants accept the promises of smugglers on the internet and often fall victim to criminal trafficking chains. “Social media networks and the so-called ‘surface’ and ‘dark’ web,” he said, “are Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools widely used to facilitate recruitment and transportation in the smuggling of migrants - including on the Balkan Route to other European countries - leading to their subsequent exploitation.”

Tools and actions

Tykhovlis pointed out that while technology can be used for evil ends, there are also several technological tools, developed by law enforcement authorities, civil society actors, and faith-based organizations, that permit people to equip themselves with knowledge about the risks of smuggling and provide means through which to report such possible cases.

According to the Holy See, state and non-state actors should take appropriate actions to promote the development of secure technological solutions. Mechanisms should be introduced for the identification of virtual assets in order to increase transparency and combat illegal actions within these services. Tykhovlis said prevention campaigns on smuggling and initiatives should be promoted to stop migrant smuggling and to make migration more safe, orderly, and regular.

To raise awareness of their risks and educate users and beneficiaries in the correct use of virtual assets, the Holy See official called for the promotion of awareness campaigns and specific training programmes, nationally and internationally, to contribute to the prevention of smuggling and the protection of migrants, particularly those in need.


15 October 2021, 11:48