Spain’s National Police Arrest Network of Human Traffickers
Spanish police arrested 21 suspected members of a group that smuggled drugs and trafficked illegal migrants from Morocco and Algeria and used its intricate knowledge of an interconnected series of caves and grottoes along Spain’s southeast coast to hide them.
Policía Nacional said the group could transport large quantities of hashish and thousands of irregular migrants to Europe and then ecstasy on the return trip to Algeria, making over 2.5 million euros (US$2.94 million) in profits.With a fleet of more than 40 high-speed Zodiac boats,
Investigators link the group to an incident last February when 11 illegal migrants died at sea while trying to reach Spain. Authorities are also aware that European fugitives trying to evade justice seek the help of such criminals to take them from Spain into Algeria.
Police seized during the raid more than $58,000 in various currencies, several kilograms of hashish, marijuana, cocaine, ketamine, computers, communication devices as well as firearms.
The group seems to be taking advantage of diplomatic disputes between Spain and Morocco.
The most popular crossing point for migrants is Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the African side of the Gibraltar passage. Earlier this year, El País reported that around 9,000 illegal migrants, including 2,000 to 3,000 minors, crossed into Ceuta from Morocco over land and by sea.
Spain is refusing to grant Moroccans asylum and allows only unaccompanied children to stay. To prevent migrants from coming, Spain deployed soldiers in combat gear to police the border. Soldiers were seen firing tear gas into the buffer zone between the countries, Al Jazeera reported.
The Moroccan government, meanwhile, has been accused of doing too little or nothing to prevent migrants from crossing into Spain outside of the proper channels, which has been seen as an attempt to pressure the Spanish government into recognizing Morocco’s 1975 annexation of Western Sahara.