A cross-border crime takes place when a person becomes a victim of a crime committed outside their country of residence, or if a crime committed abroad affects the victim in their country of residence. It is ‘any serious crime with a cross-border dimension committed at or along, or which is related to, the external borders’. It may affect a diversity of people, including tourists, asylum seekers, temporary workers and others. Some common cross-border crimes include cybercrime, cross-border fraud, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, organised crime, environmental crimes, etc. Cross-border crimes are complex and can involve conventional offences with a small number of victims: assault, theft or internet scams; or target a larger number of people: terrorism, war crimes, crimes against humanity.
Victims’ rights in the European Union are established under The Victim’s Rights Directive, which includes provisions for victims of cross-border crime. Cross-border victims often face additional challenges, including language barriers, increased economical burdens, time and travel constraints, cultural barriers, geographical distance to support network, limited time in the country where the crime occurred, among others. It is important to know that the Victims’ Rights Directive ensures that you are entitled to receive information in a language you understand.
Victims are also entitled to all rights in the Directive regardless of their residence status, which means undocumented migrants cannot be excluded from the rights to information, compensation, legal assistance, victim support, and many others. Your Member-State of residence must also accept complaints about any crimes committed against you in any Member-State, so that you do not have to travel to the place of the crime to press charges on a crime that took place abroad.
To know more about your rights as a victim of crime, visit the victims’ rights section on our website.
Cross-border Crime in the EU
The EU helps its members fight serious cross-border crime and terrorism more effectively by facilitating common action and cooperation between national police and customs authorities. If you have been a victim of cross-border crime, your rights are the same as if the offence took place in your own country. Under the Victims’ Rights Directive, judgments, judicial decisions and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters having a cross-border dimension must be mutually recognised as valid by any Member-State.
Cross-border crime encompasses a variety of situations. Across these, it is important to know the European emergency number: in all EU states, you can dial 112 in case of emergency.
We have summarised some measures to take, considering certain types of cross-border crime.
If you are travelling to another country, there are some measures to prevent falling prey to certain types of small-scale crimes:
- Inform others about your plans: leave details (dates, itinerary, accommodation arrangements) with family or friends and establish a way you can get in touch with them.
- Inform a local consulate: if you are traveling outside the EU, it might be a good idea to inform your local consulate when you arrive and leave details of your trip and a phone number they can reach you at.
- Make electronic copies of your documents: create an electronic backup of your passport, visas, medical insurance card, itinerary, immunization record, and any other important documents. Email the files to yourself and keep them in your inbox in case any of your documents are lost, stolen, or damaged.
- Inform yourself: check travel advice, and your foreign office/ministry’s website, for your destination online.
To prevent being the victim of cross-border cybercrime, such as fraud:
- Set out strong passwords for your devices.
- Protect your devices through anti-spyware software, firewalls and anti-spam software
- Do not share personal information, including identification documents, passwords, bank card details and others, unless you have verified the identity of the person.
- Act immediately if you think you have been a victim of an online scam. If you have provided account numbers, PINS, or passwords to an unidentified source, notify the companies that you have accounts with right away.
If you are abroad and experiencing a mass violence event, such as a terrorist attack, we advise you to visit our section on terrorism to know more about what to do before, during and after the crime, and how to find the support you need.
- Be alert to your surroundings
- Don’t keep your valuables in one place– if a thief wants your handbag, wallet, phone let them take it
- Only use registered taxis – don’t accept lifts from strangers
- Tell friends of your plans – use a buddy system so someone knows where you are
- Look back when you’re leaving – check you room or the table at which you had dinner in case you leave something behind
- Consider taking a travel insurance
It is important to note that the impact of crime is felt differently by each person. Every reaction of victims is normal when faced with an unexpected and potentially painful experience of crime.
The impacts of crime can be physical, psychological, social and economic, among others, and can last for long after the event. In the immediate aftermath, physical effects can be an increased heart rate, heavy or shallow breathing, sweating, dry mouth, tense muscles, feeling unable to move, feeling jittery or shaky, as the body is on high alert for further threats. These immediate effects can impact the psychological state of the victim and may lead them to act irrationally, to misunderstand information, to have issues remembering the event or what is communicated to them, and even act opposite to their best interest. Depending on the type of crime and the degree of physical violence, medical assistance might be necessary, as well as psychological first aid.
On the long-term, physical effects can linger on. For example, victims can experience recurrent loss of energy, muscle pain, headaches and/or migraines, menstruation disorders, cold sensations, shivering and/or hot flashes, digestive problems and high blood pressure, even long after the crime has taken place. Psychological effects of crime can also persist, or develop, on the long-term. These effects can include anxiety, difficulty concentrating, guilt, depression, isolation, trouble while sleeping, post-traumatic stress disorder, among other reactions.
There are also important possible social consequences of victimisation, such as the abovementioned isolation and tense relationships with those surrounding the victim. Victims have to rethink their relationship with the world around them, and the reactions of their surroundings may increase their inclination to isolate themselves. For instance, surroundings may misunderstand the victim’s reactions, or even blame the victim to preserve their own world views. Economically, the consequences of crime encompass the costs of medical or psychological support, or the costs of absenteeism from work due to the previous mentioned consequences of crime.
IF YOUR DOCUMENTS/ONLINE DATA ARE STOLEN
- You should contact the police to report the theft. If they exist, look for a police station that specialises in crimes against tourists. You have the right to communication in a language you understand.
- If your credit card has been stolen, contact your bank as soon as possible to inform them.
- Once you have a police report number, go to your consulate or embassy and request new documents or an emergency passport.
- If you wish to speak to someone about what has happened, contact the national victim support organisation. They will give you information on your rights and the national criminal justice system in the country where the crime took place. They can also accompany you in further judicial proceedings, if you wish to do so.
IF ALL YOUR POSSESSIONS ARE STOLEN
- Report the crime and make a statement;
- Ask for a money transfer for your immediate needs (you can ask for assistance from the local victim support organisation and police authorities);
- Cancel any stolen cards (you can ask for assistance from the victim support organisation and police authorities);
- Ask for logistical support (in case you have no place to stay, no money for meals etc., contact a victim support organisation);
- If you feel the need to speak to someone about what has happened, contact the national victim support organisation, who will be able to give you information regarding your rights, the available support and the national criminal justice system in the country where the crime took place.
IF YOU SUFFERED FROM A VIOLENT CRIME
- Talk to someone, if possible a friend or close relative. Do not keep it to yourself and know that crime is never the victim’s fault;
- Go to the hospital to rule out any physical harm. If you are in shock, you may not notice physical injuries;
- Contact the national victim support organisation to ask for help to deal with the emotional and legal effects of crime, as well as to help you with your immediate needs;
- Report the crime (if you wish to do so) and make a statement about what happened;
- Claim compensation within the criminal justice system, if you wish to file a civil complaint.
If you’ve been affected by cross-border crime, there are a number of ways you can contact support services to get assistance or information.
- Get support locally. Contact your nearest Victim Support team, if you know them. They can help you find help in another country, if you are abroad.
- Call 116 006, the telephone number for helplines for victim support. This number is available in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. It will provide you information on the nearest victim support service. If specialised services exist, like support centres for migrant victims or for tourists, they will be able to direct you to this care.
The 116 006 helps victims of crime by informing them of their rights and how to use these, offering emotional support, while also referring victims to relevant organisations. As a single access point, it will provide information about local police and criminal justice proceedings, possibilities for compensation and insurance matters, and other sources of help for victims of crime.
Watch Alexander’s story, victim of a cross-border crime.