World / Europe

EU police group launches team to tackle migrant smugglers

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-03-17 21:43

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The European Union police agency has launched a new team to crack down on organized crime gangs that smuggle tens of thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.

In an example of the work the team will do, Europol announced Tuesday that it had supported Greek authorities who arrested 16 suspected people-smugglers last week.

The suspects are accused of arranging travel for 350 migrants, mostly Syrians, who paid up to 9,000 euros each to get from Turkey to the Greek islands and then onward to mainland Europe using forged travel documents.

Europol says some 220,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean last year, costing 3,000 migrants their lives. A further 1,000 have died already this year.

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