The European Union's law enforcement arm arrested 29 in Spain and Poland in raids targeting a migrant-smuggling operation that brought Pakistanis to the EU and forced them to work in slave-like conditions.
A Pakistani organized crime network transported the immigrants over the Mediterranean Sea to the EU from Libya or Turkey "in often unseaworthy boats," The Hague-based Europol said on November 3.
The new arrivals were then forced to work in kebab restaurants to pay off their transport and forged documents supplied by the criminal organization, Europol said. Each were forced to pay about 14,000 euros ($15,440) for the journey.
The workers received no pay, holidays, or social security benefits and were forced to work long hours under abusive conditions, Europol said.
The arrests were made on October 24 and 25 in raids on restaurants and houses in Poland and Spain.
One of the voyages that Europol attributed to the criminal network made headlines in August after more than 40 people suffocated from fumes in the hold of a ship discovered in distress off Libya. The Italian Navy rescued the remaining 300 to 400 people onboard.