THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Latest on the migrant crisis in Europe (all times local):
The European Union's police organization has launched a new unit dedicated to tackling migrant smuggling as part of the 28-nation bloc's efforts to stem the flow of people pouring into the continent as they flee conflict and poverty.
Europol Director Rob Wainwright said Monday his organization estimates that nine out of every 10 asylum-seekers arriving in Europe have their travel facilitated by a criminal smuggling network.
He says the new center at Europol's headquarters in The Hague will help EU member states "improve their exchange of information and operational coordination in the fight against organized migrant smuggling."
According to a Europol report, criminal networks involved in people smuggling had an estimated turnover last year of 3-6 billion euros ($3.3-6.6 billion), as more than 1 million migrants arrived last year.
Greece's government warned Monday it expected a growing number of stranded migrants and asylum seekers after neighbor Macedonia further restricted border access at the weekend.
Ioannis Mouzalas, a deputy minister for migration said the European Union was failing to deal with unilateral actions and an "outburst of scare-mongering" from individual member states.
Macedonia imposed the restrictions at the weekend after Austria imposed a cap on transit and asylum applications.
The action — blocking Afghans from crossing the border and generally restricting access — from left thousands of migrants stranded in Greece, at the border and the port of Piraeus, near Athens, where regular private services to the border were suspended.
Nearly 100,000 migrants and refugees have traveled to Greek islands from nearby Turkey so far this year.
Police said about 2,000 people were stranded at the border camps near the Greek border town of Idomeni, including some 600 Afghans who staged a peaceful protest, holding up Afghan flags and hand-written banners.
Among them was 25-year-old Shafiulahh Qaberi who traveled to Greece from the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.
"We've been here for three days, and no one knows why they have closed the border," he told the AP. "I don't need food and I don't need water. What I need is to get over the border. Why are they stopping us?"
Follow Kantouris at http://www.twitter.com/CostasKantouris