The authorities in Germany, Romania, and Serbia, supported by Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union, have carried out a successful investigation targeting an organised crime network engaged in smuggling migrants along the Balkan route.
According to a recent statement issued by the agency, four people were arrested throughout this investigation, one of which in Germany and the other three in Romania, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
At the same time, in total, 15 locations were checked, of which four in Germany and 11 in Romania. Three vehicles, mobile phones, electronic devices, documents and cash in different currencies were seized during the day of the action.
Revealing further details on the investigation, Europol has also noted that the same was launched in response to several incidents involving the interception of irregular migrants at different sections of the German border, including those with Austria, Czechia, and Poland.
The criminal network under investigation was discovered to be charging individuals between €4,000 and €10,000 per person for smuggling them from Turkey to Germany via the Balkan route. Additionally, the cost of smuggling between Romania and Germany ranged between €4,000 and €5,000.
The German and Romanian authorities had initiated an investigation into the members of a criminal network starting at the end of 2022, which then linked these individuals to detecting over 870 migrants in 93 smuggling incidents.
In Romania, a local cell of the criminal network operated in the city of Timisoara and played a role in gathering the migrants before transporting them to Germany. This cell was responsible for renting and managing hiding locations in the areas of Arad and Timisoara.
They would gather the migrants in overcrowded accommodations to merge different groups and then facilitate their onward transfer to Germany. The suspects had set up this operational structure to optimise logistics and maximise criminal profits.
As a result, Europol decided to send an analyst to Romania in order to facilitate the immediate exchange of information and cross-reference operational data with Europol’s extensive databases.
At the end of last month, the Romanian Border Police, with Europol’s assistance, apprehended 28 individuals connected to criminal organisations involved in smuggling immigrants into the Schengen area through Bulgaria and Romania.
A Europol statement confirmed that law enforcement also conducted searches at 29 locations in Bucharest, Arges district, Buzau, Konstanz, and Brasov on the day of the operation.
The investigation into this criminal network began last year when the Romanian Border Police detained several van drivers at the border with Bulgaria. This led to identifying a criminal network comprising several suspected individuals organised into two distinct groups.