The European Union has launched a Joint Operational Team (JOT) Mare to tackle the organised criminal groups who are facilitating the journeys of migrants by ship across the Mediterranean Sea to the EU.
Hosted at Europol headquarters in The Hague, JOT Mare will combine Europol’s intelligence resources and the EU Member States’ capabilities to carry out coordinated and intelligence-driven actions against the facilitators.
The influx of migrants via the Mediterranean Sea has been exponentially rising, with 220,000 migrants crossing in 2014. Apart from putting intense immigration pressure on countries such as Greece and Italy, before the migrants arrive they have often taken very risky journeys across the Mediterranean to get there.
Intelligence shows that organised criminal groups are actively facilitating the transport of these irregular migrants across the Mediterranean, and these groups have also been linked to human trafficking, drugs, firearms and terrorism.
More than 3,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean en route to Europe in 2014 and there have been 1,000 deaths in 2015 alone.
“This dedicated maritime intelligence centre, hosted and supported by Europol, has great potential: it will reinforce our actions against people smugglers; against the ruthless criminals who facilitate irregular migration to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
“We will continue to encourage close cooperation among all national and European stakeholders, in order to pursue further our common objectives and to deliver concrete results,” European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said.
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