The European policing agency says Spanish police have dismantled a network smuggling hundreds of Pakistanis into the European Union from the Balkans, cramming the migrants into trucks under “life-threatening conditions.”
The smugglers took mainly Pakistani migrants from refugee camps in Bosnia-Herzegovina, then would transport them via van to Italy, or in some cases Spain, Europol said on November 4.
The monthslong investigation involved law enforcement authorities from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Romania, France, and Slovenia, together with Europol and Eurojust, the European Union's agency for judicial cooperation.
It led to the arrest in April and May of 15 people -- 12 in Spain and one each in Croatia, Slovenia, and Romania.
The suspects, who were mainly Pakistani, but also Colombian, Spanish, and Romanian, “used vans and trucks to hide the irregular migrants while transporting them in life-threatening conditions,” Europol said.
The group's ringleader was arrested in Romania and transferred to Spain.
The investigation started in August 2020, when Slovenia arrested a suspect transporting 55 migrants in a truck.
Law enforcement in Croatia also intercepted a truck smuggling 77 migrants in life-threatening conditions, Europol said. In another operation, Croatian authorities detected two other vehicles carrying 47 and 21 migrants.
Police estimate the group earned at least 2 million euros ($2.3 million) from smuggling around 400 people into the EU in recent months.
Smugglers charged 3,000 euros ($3,500) to bring the migrants from Bosnia to Slovenia. From Bosnia to Italy it was 5,000-8,000 euros ($5,800-$9,200).
“In total, Pakistani migrants would have paid the suspects up to 20,000 euros ($23,000) to reach their final European destination,” Europol said.