According to the Associated Press, quoting European officials and citing a pertinent EU document, information obtained from migrants rescued at sea "confirms that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are widely used to share information on how to enter the EU illegally."
The price tag for making the illegal journey to Europe ranges from 2,000 euros for a sub-Saharan African to almost 10,000 readily shelled out by wealthier Syrians.
Members-only Facebook accounts are often used to share information about illegal ways of entering the EU and eluding authorities once inside.
Illegal conveyers of migrants can go online and buy cargo ships, according to EU border agency Frontex. It says that about 15 cargo ships with would-be asylum seekers aboard have tried to reach Europe since August.
Ship crews are either Russian or Egyptian, and Frontex analysts have so far failed to link the smugglers to any larger criminal enterprise.
"There is no evidence of these networks being connected. This might just be a new business opportunity that someone has picked up in Turkey," Cooper said in a telephone interview from Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland.
Almost 170,000 people were salvaged in the Mediterranean last year, but hundreds perished and more are missing. If often happens that asylum-seekers intentionally disable their vessels by throwing motors overboard when sighting a coast guard ship thus turning the encounter into a search-and-rescue mission forcing the coast guards to tow the vessel to European shores.