Criminal gangs are rushing to join the lucrative people-smuggling trade, the head of Europe’s crossborder police force warned.
Rob Wainwright, a former MI5 officer who now directs a special Europol unit, said as many as 30,000 people from gangland kingpins to low-level fixers have joined the trade in human suffering.
He said opportunists who previously dealt in drugs or racketeering were now reaping the rewards of the European migrant crisis.
He said: “As the wave of migrants has taken hold across Europe, we are also seeing an unprecedented wave of criminality by people who are turning to this trade likes bees to a honeypot.
“They are trying to exploit it as much as they can.”
Trafficking gangs – some operating from Britain – are making hundreds of thousands of pounds a week as desperate people march through Europe trying to escape poverty and wars in Africa and the Middle East.
Mr Wainwright, who spent a decade at MI5, has established a 30-strong unit at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague dedicated to gathering intelligence on the people smugglers.
He said the unit was already “swamped” by its case load.
It comes after reports from France that London-based gangsters were seen driving around in British-registered cars at a migrant camp in Dunkirk last month.
Mr Wainwright said: “In France we are seeing individual criminals make their own initiatives on this. I think in that particular case with the Brits they were just opportunist guys, low-level chancers.
“But there are established criminal syndicates in Britain and in France and elsewhere that are also involved.”
French police are investigating whether 15 suspected smugglers of Vietnamese origin arrested in Dunkirk on Friday were working for London-based paymasters.
Figures released last week revealed more than 213,000 people claimed asylum in EU countries between April and June.
Of these 44,000 – or 21% – were from Syria, followed by 13% from Afghanistan and 8% from Albania.
But Mr Wainwright downplayed fears that terrorists from Islamic State could have infiltrated the migrants.
“The principal terrorist threat at the moment is posed by European nationals themselves who have joined (Islamic State) in Iraq or Syria and may come back,” he added.
“They have passports so they don’t need to come in with the migrants where they may be stopped and fingerprinted.”
source: Daily Mirror