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Twenty-two people have been arrested today as a result of a joint police operation in France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The arrested persons are suspected of smuggling around 2000 illegal immigrants, mainly from Iraq, into the EU. During a house search also 7 possible illegal immigrants were discovered.
This pan-European investigation started eighteen months ago. In its course a smuggling route via Turkey to Greece and onwards via Italy, through Central Europe to Scandinavian countries was identified. Europol experts prepared several intelligence reports, facilitated the exchange of information and coordinated the police operations.
The main suspects and new criminal links were discovered in close cooperation with national experts after in-depth analysis. Europol also hosted several preparatory operational meetings and the involvement of both Eurojust and Interpol has been important for the success of the operation.
Investigators found out that illegal immigrants paid up to 2000 Euros for a trip from Paris to UK or Sweden. A trip in a truck cost between 700-1000 Euros. A trip in a car (more secure) with a driver is around 2000 Euros. Sometimes the whole family of an illegal migrant, or even their communities, had to cover the costs.
It was also again established that organised crime groups are very flexible and innovative when it comes to committing crime whilst using various means of transportation and quickly changing modus operandi. One of the methods used is hiding inside trucks.
Recently, a truck transporting flour was found to contain an additional 18 illegal immigrants onboard.
Today’s operation was the third in a row coordinated by Europol since June 2008. During the previous two operations 78 and 46 suspects were arrested. In cooperation with several EU Member States, Interpol and Eurojust, new operations towards these internationally operating criminal networks are foreseen in the future.