The client is a UK-based, documentary production company, investigating high-profile cases of human trafficking in Europe.
The company tasked a film crew to travel to Almeria, Spain to document the living conditions of illegal immigrants from the coast of Morocco, Africa, who work illegally in the area controlled by criminal organizations.
The company with many years of experience operating in conflictive environments relies on local “fixers” and low-profile close protection agents, to protect its employees.
The project involved visiting a housing project in the outskirts of Almeria, where a few immigrants decided to tell the media their story, exposing not only a human trafficking organization but local government officials, allegedly collaborating with the traffickers.
The client contacted ETS requesting a preliminary assessment and a security detail to protect personnel and assets.
ETS through local Law Enforcement resources and private security assets, assessed the situation concerning illegal immigration and organized crime in Almeria, to ensure not to interfere with any ongoing official investigation.
We also verified the identity and background of the “fixer” contacted by the client, who was tasked to plan the time and location of the meetings between the crew and the immigrants.
Upon verification and after consulting with our local team, we determined that the meetings could not be conducted in the housing project, where Police can only intervene with extreme caution in case of riots or murder.
Racial tension has caused numerous incidents in the past so the Spanish government opted to maintain distance and a low-profile approach if necessary.
Our contact with local Police informed us that the main concern in Almeria was a known gang of human traffickers, both Spanish and, Moroccans who did not hesitate to use violence.
ETS deployed a highly experienced local asset, a former member of the Spanish Custom & Border Patrol Department, to act as a liaison and also as a covert close protection officer.
A secondary, protective surveillance team, was deployed before the clients’ arrival to secure the area, establishing any correlation between the clients’ movements and potential hostiles.
Our agents contacted the “fixer” and together they surveyed the location of the meeting and chose to offer two options to the clients. Security-wise, the meeting’s area was too isolated and exposed with only one way in and out.
The plan involved escorting the clients and the fixer to four meetings to interview the immigrants, collecting evidence if available and, filming the interviews. The immigrants also offered to show the film crew a few “secret” locations, utilized by human traffickers to smuggle immigrants avoiding the Coast Guard and the Immigration.
Source: Ministerio del Interior de España
Upon arrival, we briefed the clients about the situation and our findings.
We discussed the opportunity to change the meeting’s location and upon an agreement, the fixer informed the immigrants who confirmed their presence at the new location.
The following day, our protective surveillance team, surveyed the area two hours before the meeting without detecting anomalies or potential hostiles while the close protection agent, posing as a crew member, traveled in the client’s van. No issues or anomalies were detected and the crew safely arrived at the first meeting.
The immigrants were interviewed and agreed about filming them only after wearing face masks. They were visibly nervous and in fear for their lives due to possible retaliation from the traffickers and allegedly from some corrupted immigration officers.
During the following two days, two more meetings were conducted safely and successfully. Our team did not detect any potential threat or hostiles and reassured the clients that the situation was under control.
On the last day, the immigrants promised the crew to show them two locations, used by the human traffickers, to introduce illegal immigrants into Spain through the coasts of Almeria.
Our team was not provided the coordinates ahead of time which posed a significant risk for the clients. The fixer was sent to speak with the immigrants to explain the situation and our intent to minimize risks for all parties involved.
The following morning the fixer received a message with the coordinates of the two locations and the meeting was postponed by three hours to allow our team to advance both areas.
We planned to have the team staying on-site at the first location and when the clients departed, our close protection agent, assisted by a security driver, followed their van in a low profile vehicle to detect any potential threat or hostile surveillance.
The clients safely arrived and so the immigrant who showed two trails, hidden by the rocks, still in use by the traffickers. The clients were able to document the encounter and video the entire area.
Our personnel escorted the clients to the airport, just a few hours before the departure, ensuring that they passed through security and, arrived safely at the boarding area.
ETS Spain was able to leverage intelligence sources and ground truth which were crucial for the success of the assignment while keeping the safety of the clients as a priority at all times.
Most risk assessment conducted worldwide are based on general information (regional or countrywide), often lacking details that can make a difference between missing a great business opportunity in an area wrongfully deemed unsafe, while putting clients at risk for opportunities that are not concrete in high-risk areas mistakenly considered safe.
Preparing by analyzing actionable intelligence data adds great value to a solid security plan, allowing operators to make better tactical decisions that could save lives.
Secure ground transportation, close protection, protective surveillance and, many more disciplines that constitute the art of Executive Protection would not be effective without a thorough risk and threat assessment, a robust security plan and, continued monitoring of the situation around the client and his/her entourage and family members.
The clients, before entering the airport, asked for a full debriefing of the entire stay. They were very pleased with the work we have done to prepare, execute, and most importantly to react once a potential threat presented itself. The client’s team leader offered the following comment: “We knew that this assignment was not a walk in the park and based on the “homework” we have done, the area sounded interesting yet quite conflictive. Your support, strategy and, operational skills not only allowed us to complete the assignment but also made us feel safe every step of the way. We wish to have a chance to work with you again soon, meanwhile please stay safe”.