Spanish Police Bust Criminal Ring that Brought Syrian Migrants into the EU
Authorities in Europe detained 15 suspected members of a criminal network that smuggled Syrian nationals through Sudan, Libya, and Algeria into the European Union. Among the detainees is the group's alleged leader, a Syrian national, the Spanish police said on Tuesday.
Europol coordinated the operation, which also involved law enforcement from Germany, Norway, and France. The agency stated that the criminal group used an "unusual and expensive route" to bring its clients to the EU, charging a fee ranging from US$7,000 to $22,000 per person.
The migrants would be transported from Syria to either Sudan or the United Arab Emirates, then to Libya, and from there to Algeria, where they would board high-speed boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Spain.
Authorities have recorded 13 such operations involving over 200 migrants.
Once in Spain, some migrants would stay in the country while others would move on to France, Belgium, Germany, and Norway.
The group is believed to have offered special VIP treatment to those who paid over $20,000. This included being dropped off at a different location in Spain than the other migrants and being driven in luxurious vehicles with heightened security measures.
According to Europol, the criminal group had an extensive infrastructure in Lebanon, Sudan, Libya, and Algeria, and relied on corrupt officials to facilitate the transfer of migrants. In Europe, members of the criminal network were based in Belgium, Germany, and Spain, and they coordinated sea crossings and secondary movements to destination countries from there.
They employed physical and video surveillance of clandestine points along the coast to ensure that they would not be detected by the police when the boats arrive.
Authorities seized two speed boats, six vehicles, electronic equipment, drugs, fuel, phones, over 500,000 euros in cash, and documents.