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In a joint operation supported by Europol and Eurojust, 31 suspected facilitators of illegal immigration have been arrested by English, French, German and Hungarian police officers. One arrest was made in the UK, 13 in France, 5 in Germany and 12 in Hungary.
The majority of those arrested were of Vietnamese origin but there were also several arrests of EU nationals.
In total 66 immigrants from Vietnam were found during the house searches. 31 of these have already been confirmed as illegal immigrants whilst identities of the rest still have to be established.
This pan–European investigation started 14 months ago. The investigations, supported by Europol, focused on suspects who smuggled illegal immigrants mainly from Vietnam into the EU, with a so–called ‘full guarantee’. This implied that the people were given guarantees that they would reach their final destinations, even where previous smuggling attempts had failed.
The price for the entire guaranteed journey was up to 40 000 euros and could take anything from a few days up to many weeks. The families of the illegal immigrants would often sell their houses and property to fund the journey, resulting in substantial debt. Having done this, they would receive the full guarantee from the facilitators.
One of the modus operandi used by this network was that they provided the immigrants with travel documents and valid visas that were issued on false grounds, with the help of involved consular officials. Once the immigrant arrived in Europe the travel documents were handed back to the criminal network.
Various routes were used by the immigrants, such as flights from Vietnam to airports in Austria, the Czech Republic or Hungary. The immigrants were then transported onwards over land, hidden in trucks, to France and Germany. Another route involved flights into Romania and Bulgaria and then onwards via trucks or cars to Hungary or the Czech Republic, and from there by car to France.
Eurojust was involved in assisting the coordination of the investigations and the exchange of information between the Member States involved. In April 2010 a coordination meeting was hosted by Eurojust in The Hague.
Europol experts were present at the coordination centre to provide technical expertise and operational analysis support. During the investigation phase, Europol prepared several intelligence reports and facilitated the exchange of information. New criminal links were discovered by Europol in close cooperation with national experts.