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Definition of 'Drug Mules' for Use in a European Context

NCJ Number
Date Published
46 pages
The principal aims of this project were to determine whether it is feasible to develop a common European definition of a "drug mule" and to assess the implications of this for data-gathering and future research.
The trafficking of drugs and particularly the use of human carriers (often called "drug mules") for this purpose remains a relatively hidden phenomenon. Because of the ambiguity associated with current definitions of "drug mules," this project sought to develop a definition of "drug mule" in an attempt to create a shared understanding and agreement on the concept in order to broaden its applicability and comparability throughout Europe. A review of the relevant literature identified two distinct types of courier: the self-employed courier and the drug mule. The difference between the two forms of couriers centers on the level of organization and commercial interest in the transportation of the drug. This project proposes the following definition of "drug mule:" a drug courier who is paid, coerced, or tricked into transporting drugs across an international border, but who has no further commercial interest in the drugs. This definition was tested by surveying professionals, academics, and practitioners throughout Europe and beyond for the purpose of assessing their understanding of the meaning of the term "drug mule," and also its prevalence and legal standing in their own country. Although the respondents had a general understanding of the roles of drug couriers, including the role of a drug mule, this distinction is not clearly reflected in legislation or policies. This suggests that further research should be done in developing a more formal definition and consensus understanding of the term "drug mule" across countries and professional fields. 62 references and appended survey questionnaire