People-smuggling gangs netted up to €6bn last year, most of it from the traffic of migrants into Europe, the EU’s police agency Europol said in a report.
Labelling people-smuggling as the “fastest growing criminal market in Europe”, it said: “This turnover is set to double or triple if the scale of the current migration crisis persists in the upcoming year.”
Europol and police forces have identified more than 12,000 suspects active in gangs involved in smuggling in migrants since 2015.
Gangs — whose members come from countries including Bulgaria, Egypt, Iraq, Hungary, and Kosovo — are engaged in criminal activities including forgery and official bribery.
Hotspots include cities along the Balkan route from the Middle East, such as Istanbul, Izmir, Athens, and Budapest, and continental hubs such as Berlin, Calais, Zeebrugge, and Frankfurt.
However, Europol said there was little evidence “terrorist suspects” were making use of smuggling networks to enter the continent.
“Far less than 0.01% of terrorist suspects have had migrant links,” said Europol director Rob Wainwright.
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