By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
LONDON, United Kingdom – European Union and numerous national law enforcement agencies arrested 23 gang members on Tuesday suspected of transporting more than 2,000 illegal immigrants into Europe.
Suspects were arrested in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. Ocriest, French immigration enforcement agency, as well as law enforcement agencies from a number of other European nations, coordinated the investigation and arrests. The investigation that led to these arrests began over eighteen months ago. Eventually a smuggling operation, entering the continent in Turkey, then moving to Greece, Italy, Germany and eventually their final destination nations, was uncovered.
Arrests made by the UK’s Serious Organized Crime Agency also confiscated identity documents, cell phones, and cash. Overall, 13 people were arrested in France, four in the UK, two in Greece, two in the Netherlands and one in Italy.
The immigrants that were smuggled into Europe by the gang members were largely from Iraq and Afghanistan. Those that were smuggled in paid up to 15,000 euros for transportation from Iraq to Europe. For additional payments, these immigrants were able to have a personal escort and transportation to their final destination. During one of the arrests of suspects in the UK, seven illegal immigrants were detained.
The EU estimates that there are approximately 8 million illegal immigrants in Europe. According to Mikael Jensen, deputy head of Europol’s Crimes Against Persons Unit, most individuals smuggled into Europe within the last three years have been Iraqi. These arrests mark the third operation conducted by Europol since mid 2008 against illegal human smuggling networks. This past June Europol arrested 75 in another smuggling network which brought in immigrants from Iraq.
These coordinated efforts by European government investigations come at a time when there is increased domestic political pressures to counter the increased illegal immigrant populations, and the impact they have in the areas of national security and employment, in their respective countries.
For more information, please see:
VOXY – 22 People Smugglers Arrested – 18 November 2009
TAIWAN NEWS – France: Illegal immigration network dismantled – 18 November 2009
AHN – Coalition of European Law Enforcement Groups Arrest 23 In Human Trafficking Ring – 17 November 2009
BBC – Traffickers targeted in EU raids – 17 November 2009
REUTERS – Police nab smugglers who brought 2,000 into EU – 17 November 2009