Spanish police bust people smuggling gang

TMP – 12/09/2017

Spanish police have busted a people smuggling ring that was using jet skis to ferry migrants from Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar.
The smugglers made daily trips from Morocco to beaches in the southern Spanish provinces of Malaga and Cadiz. During each trip, migrants would pay up to €5,000 each and would then be taken on jet skis for the ten-minute crossing across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Upon arriving in Spain, migrants were taken to a holding place in the southern port city of Algeciras, where they would be held for several hours until it was confirmed that their relatives had made the payment to the smuggler.

A spokesman for the Spanish police said: “They were putting the lives of the migrants at risk and some suffered injuries when they crash landed on some rocks.”

One member of the smuggling gang and two migrants were arrested in Algeciras, and another two gang members were held in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in north Africa.

The three smugglers were charged with human trafficking and kidnap offences, while another two smugglers on the run are now the subjects of international arrest warrants.

As migrants try to avoid the deteriorating security situation in Libya and smugglers attempt to escape the Libyan coastguard’s recent crackdown, migrant arrivals in Spain are increasing rapidly, while Italy is seeing a sharp fall in the number of arrivals.

According to the latest figures from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), migrant arrivals in Italy fell by 57% in July.
“Several factors contributed to the significant drop in activity on the Central Mediterranean route in recent weeks, including worse sea conditions in the first half of July,” Frontex said.

“Clashes near Sabratah, a key departure area in Libya, have also affected the smuggling operations there. In addition, [an] increased presence of the Libyan Coast Guard also discouraged the people smugglers from sending out boats with migrants,” Frontex added.