On 26 June, Europol's Deputy Director of Operations, Wil van Gemert, together with Frontex's Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri and Giovanni Pinto, Director for Immigration and Border Police, visited the premises offered by the Italian authorities to host the EU Regional Task Force (EU RTF) in Catania, Sicily.
The new premises have been set up as part of the hot spot approach recommended by the European Commission's Agenda on Migration. The office hosting the EU RTF will provide a platform for cooperation between Europol, Frontex and other EU agencies and will enable them to intervene rapidly and in a coordinated manner.
The EU RTF will assist the Italian authorities in the field of identification, asylum support, intelligence sharing, criminal investigations and the prosecution of criminal networks of people smugglers.
"After creating Joint Operational Team (JOT) Mare in March this year, this is an important next step to increase the support given by Europol to fight the organised crime behind illegal immigration. By being present in the EU RTF, we will not only be able to give direct support but also enrich the intelligence picture," said Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director of Europol.
Europol's JOT Mare aims to assist EU Member States in targeting the organised crime groups that smuggle migrants
by combining analysis and subject matter expertise on facilitated illegal immigration with on-the-spot support.
Europol's JOT Mare relies on information from the Member States and other important partners such as Frontex and Interpol. Information from various sources is being used to create a comprehensive intelligence picture, allowing for swift action. Increased information exchange via JOT Mare in recent months is already providing a clearer intelligence picture, but has also highlighted the need for presence on the spot for real time information and closer cooperation.
Illegal migration is a complex phenomenon, requiring comprehensive action focussing on different areas such as humanitarian aspects, economic factors and security. The number of irregular migrants arriving in the EU is still high. One of the most used and risky forms of transport is by sea.