European Union law enforcement agency Europol has launched Joint Operational Team (JOT) Mare, in a bid to combat irregular migration through the Mediterranean Sea.
According to Europol, organised criminal groups are actively facilitating the transport of irregular migrants and the groups have also been linked to human trafficking, drugs, firearms and terrorism.
The new initiative will coordinate Europol’s intelligence resources and member states’ capabilities to tackle the criminal groups.
Europol director Rob Wainwright said: "The tragedies we have seen at sea involving migrants requires prompt and coordinated action at EU level.
"Europol and our partners attach great importance to the fight against criminal groups facilitating illegal migration and will combine all available resources to provide a proactive law enforcement response."
JOT Mare will also offer intensified exchange of intelligence with Frontex and close cooperation with Interpol.
In addition, it will enable the necessary collaboration between Europol and services of the participating EU member states.
In 2014, it is estimated that more than 220,000 people crossed the Mediterranean, causing more than 3,000 deaths at sea in the region.
Recently, United Nations (UN) agencies concerned with migration agreed to set-up a mechanism to improve existing inter-agency communication on migration by sea.
The new process is expected to facilitate operational-level communication between relevant agencies bilaterally and multilaterally.
Image: European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and Europol director Rob Wainwright. Photo: courtesy of Europol.