Ninety per cent of migrants arriving in Europe have their journey facilitated by a criminal organization, a new report from the European Union’s police agency Europol shows.
The report shows that last year people-smuggling networks netted up to €6 billion ($9.24 billion).
In the last ten years Europol’s work to combat organised migrant smuggling in Europe led to identification of almost 40,000 suspected smugglers.
As a way of intensifying the fight against human trafficking, the Europol has launched the new European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC).
The Centre will focus on geographical criminal hotspots.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said: “The fight against migrant smuggling is a key priority for the European Union in addressing the refugee crisis.”
He added that the launch of the EMSC “will reinforce cooperation with Member States, international organisations, national stakeholders and European agencies, with a responsibility to fight migrant smuggling.”
Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol said tackling the “huge people smuggling trade” had “become an essential part of the EU’s response to the migrant crisis.”
Robert Crepinko who will head the EMSC said it “will play a decisive role in proactively supporting Member States to target and dismantle organised crime networks involved in migrant smuggling.”
Europol said the exponential increase of the migratory flow and the involvement of organised crime on a large scale, together with the number of requests for operational support from EU Member States, called for an adequate and coordinated European response.
Part of the EMSC is the hotspot model of the EU Regional Task Force recommended by the European Commission’s Agenda on Migration. The aim of the regional hotspots is to assist national authorities in the field of identification, asylum support, intelligence sharing, criminal investigations and the prosecution of criminal networks of people smugglers. So far two hotspots exist in Catania, Italy and in Piraeus, Greece.
Mr Wainwright told the Police Professional that a “broad cross section of criminal actors” were involved in migrant smuggling.
“We are seeing a service based criminal community emerge. They are working together in an international syndicate which seems to be an emerging trend and are blended in with the organised crime scene as a whole,” he said.