French, Spanish security forces take down people smuggling ring, arresting 29 smugglers
Spanish and French police, with the cooperation of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), have taken down a large people smuggling ring and arrested 29 of its members.
The discovery of the smuggling network came after a Spanish citizen was arrested in France while driving a bus with 22 migrants onboard. After an investigation in Spain, a vast smuggling ring spanning Morocco, Spain and France was uncovered.
The criminal ring often used recruiters and middlemen of different nationalities to convince potential migrants to embark on the dangerous journey to Europe. The migrants would then be brought from the Spanish port of Almeria to France.
Europol also said that the organized criminal group targeted unaccompanied minors in protection centers in Spain. “They incited the minors to escape the centers and embark on dangerous journeys towards western Europe,” the agency said in a statement.
According to a Europol statement: “The operation resulted in the arrest of 26 suspects in Spain and 3 in France, 14 house searches and the seizure of USD36,534, various documents, computer equipment, more than 200kg of hashish, a vehicle and a trailer.”
Europol has recently launched a new task force to support the fight against organised people smuggling and human trafficking networks. The new task force is coordinated by Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) and targets the most dangerous networks.
Smuggling networks have facilitated the crossing of 46,000 irregular migrants and refugees to Europe by sea since the beginning of 2019. The Mediterranean is one of the most deadly routes which smugglers use, despite hundreds of migrant deaths. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) more than 900 migrant deaths were recorded in the Mediterranean this year.
Photo credit: vulcano / Shutterstock.com
Photo caption: Majorca, Spain – January 13, 2019: Police car of Palma de Mallorca city – Image