Human traffickers made as much as US$7 billion smuggling migrants into Europe last year, accounting for 90 percent of those who reached the continent.
Criminal organizations rode a wave of migrants to Europe in 2015, making human trafficking the fastest-growing criminal sector, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing Rob Wainwright, head of the European police agency Europol.
“We’re very concerned about the possible connections between terrorist organizations and smugglers’ networks,” Wainwright told a parliamentary hearing in Rome.
Last year, more than a million people arrived in Europe, mostly from war-torn Syria and Libya.
More than 184,000 migrants have reached the continent this year, mainly through Greece and Italy, according to the United Nation refugee agency, although a European Union deal with Turkey has curbed the number of arrivals via the Turkey-Greece route.
As a result of the deal, arrivals to Greece dropped but many migrants and refugees are still making the more dangerous Libya-to-Italy journey.
In February, Europol launched the European center against trafficking of migrants, “to strengthen our ability to act in this sector”, Wainwright said.
He said Europol has developed a database with information related to about 40,000 people who are involved in migrant trafficking, while the agency’s officers have been sent to migrants’ centers in Italy and Greece — the so-called hot spots — to “cooperate with national authorities”.
Wainwright said terrorist threats are still at a very high level, adding that the agency is working on several possible leads but has “no information on specific threats to Italy”.
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