The EU police agency Europol launched Monday a new centre to help combat migrant smuggling, as Europe continues to struggle with an unabated migration influx.
"Europol's research indicates 90 per cent of migrants arriving in Europe have their journey facilitated by a criminal organization," Europol director Rob Wainwright said.
"The European Migrant Smuggling Centre will play a decisive role in proactively supporting [the European Union's] member states to target and dismantle organized crime networks involved in migrant smuggling," added Robert Crepinko, the director of the new centre.
It is meant to boost cooperation and communication between member states, European agencies and international organizations. It will also integrate a team of experts who have been at Europol since March to combat people smuggling in the Mediterranean.
Smuggling gangs are estimated to have earned 3 to 6 billion euros (3.3 to 6.6 billion dollars) thanks to the refugee crisis last year, according to Wainwright. Some 12,000 suspects were identified.
Europe has been struggling to deal with a surge in migration that saw more than 1 million people arrive in 2015. Many of the new arrivals took the perilous Aegean Sea route from Turkey to Greece in a bid to reach the continent.