The EMSC was formed in February 2016 in response to the unprecedented increase in the number of irregular migrants arriving in the EU since 2014.
Europol’s research indicates that 90 % of these migrants have their journey facilitated by a criminal organisation, so tackling this multi-billion-euro trade is an essential part of the EU’s response to the migrant crisis.
Indeed, the EU’s Agenda on Migration (2015) identifies the fight against migrant smuggling is a key priority. Europol set up the EMSC following a decision by EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers that required it to strengthen its capacity to support Member States in better fighting migrant smuggling.
The EMSC is a platform to help Member States improve how they exchange information and coordinate their operations in the fight against migrant smuggling. It also facilitates increased cooperation among Member States themselves, and between them and international organisations, national stakeholders and other European agencies.
The EMSC is building on the experience and expertise that Europol has gained over the last decade or so in supporting cross-border investigations in crime areas such as:
It incorporates the Joint Operational Team (JOT) Mare, which is made up of specialists seconded from seven Member States. These Member States exchange vital information in real time to disrupt smuggling networks operating from Turkey, as well as from Libya and other North African countries.
Expanding on the activities of JOT Mare, which it now incorporates, the EMSC provides:
tailored analytical products;
leads on the activities of organised crime groups;
facilities for cross-checking the data in various Europol databases;
forensic and technical support;
Among the key products that EMSC can offer its law enforcement partners are:
a list of vessels of interest
investigation initiation documents
intelligence notifications on new trends and on links with other crime areas
early warning notifications.
Acting as an information hub, the EMSC supports the EU Regional Task Force offices in Catania (Italy) and Piraeus (Greece), which assist national authorities in the following areas:
the prosecution of criminal people-smuggling networks
The EMSC, which also cooperates with Interpol, Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), provides enhanced operational and strategic support to EU Member States, including through the deployment of Europol Mobile Investigation Support Teams (EMISTs) and Europol Mobile Analytical Support Teams (EMASTs).
For this operation, Europol deployed an EMIST to Slovakia, where it supported a series of actions and house searches that led to the arrest of seven suspects and the seizure of communication and other electronic devices. Data extracted from the equipment seized enabled Europol to identify new international links.
The goal of the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) is to support EU Member States in targeting and dismantling the complex and sophisticated criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling.