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Spain Busts 15 Migrant Smugglers Facilitating Illegal Movement Along Balkan Route

An organized criminal group involved in migrant smuggling activities was dismantled by the Spanish National Police in cooperation with law enforcement agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Romania and Slovenia and with the support of Europol and Eurojust.

According to a press release issued by Europol today, November 4, the criminal group has facilitated illegal immigration along the Balkan route for nationals of several third countries.

The investigation into this particular criminal network began in August 2020, and since then, police authorities have identified a total of 17 suspects, most of whom are Pakistanis, but also include Colombian, Spanish and Romanian nationals.

As a result, and due to extensive searches, 15 suspects have so far been arrested, one of whom is the leader of the network that Europol has deemed a “high value target”, reports.

“15 police arrests, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Romania and Slovenia against migrant smugglers on the Balkan route. Eurojust has brought together judicial and prosecutorial authorities and facilitated the transfer and execution of several European investigation orders for the exchange of information and evidence,” Eurojust wrote on his official Twitter account.

Through the same press release from Europol, it was revealed that the suspects had mainly recruited Pakistani migrants from locations close to refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After that, they would transport them in life-threatening conditions via vans or trucks to Italy or even Spain.

While transporting through the Balkan route, the suspects used different vehicles as scouts to check the route and alert the commanders in case of a police search. In all, the authorities detected eight attempts to smuggle migrants, four of which were thwarted due to the presence of the police.

Only in Croatia, the country’s law enforcement authorities stopped a car smuggling 77 migrants, four of whom were minors. In addition, they also discovered other vehicles that were carrying 47 and 21 migrants, respectively.

Regarding the amount demanded by the smugglers, it was revealed that the migrants are required to pay a large amount. In order to be transported in high-risk vehicles with little or no supplies, the suspects were asking the migrants to pay between 5,000 and 8,000 euros per person to get to Italy or Spain from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Furthermore, those from Bosnia and Herzegovina paid Slovenia 3,000 euros, which means that each person paid the suspects up to 20,000 euros to reach their final destination.

Therefore, based on these figures, investigators estimated that the suspects earned around 2 million euros because they smuggled at least 400 migrants.

Previously, the Spanish Civil Guard and the French National Gendarmerie arrested seven people involved in migrant smuggling activities. The group had been operating for six months and used historic tobacco smuggling routes between Spain and France.

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