MADRID/LILLE: Spanish police have dismantled a smuggling ring suspected of bringing hundreds of Pakistani migrants into the European Union overland in “life-threatening conditions”, officials said on Thursday.
The smuggling group took Pakistanis from camps in Bosnia to Italy or Spain, said a statement from Europol, which was involved in the Spanish operation.
“Transported in life-threatening conditions in cars, vans or trucks, they often spend days confined with little or no supplies,” the European Union law enforcement agency said.
During the operation, which involved police from eight countries, Croatian police intercepted a lorry transporting 77 Pakistani migrants in a space measuring just eight square metres (86 square feet), a Spanish police statement said.
“The migrants, including four minors, travelled in crowded and subhuman conditions, and were forced to make several holes in the roof to be able to breathe so the police action prevented what could have been a tragedy,” it said.
Europol said each person was charged between 5,000 and 8,000 euros ($5,800-$9,200) for the trip.
Spanish police said they suspect the ring smuggled “at least 400 migrants” into the EU in recent months, earning over 2.0 million euros ($2.3 million).
But they believe the Spain-based ring has been active “for several years, so the total number of migrants smuggled in is much higher”.
Police in several EU countries and Bosnia, as well EU judicial agency Eurojust, were involved in the investigation that led to the arrest of the gang’s suspected chief.
During the operation, police arrested 15 people — 12 in Spain and one each in Croatia, Slovenia and Romania.
The risks of smuggling migrants into Europe by truck were laid bare in October 2019 after 39 people, all believed to be Vietnamese nationals, were found dead in a refrigerated truck near London.
Two die as migrants step up Channel crossings
Two migrants have died, one is missing and hundreds more have been rescued on France’s northern coast in recent days, as growing numbers seek to reach Britain in relatively stable weather, French authorities said on Thursday.
The corpse of one migrant was found on Thursday morning in a small boat filled with water which washed up on the beach in Wissant outside the northern city of Calais, a source close to the investigation said.
Two other people from the same boat were taken to hospital suffering extreme hypothermia.
In separate incidents the day before, one migrant died and one went missing, while more than 400 were rescued after several vessels sank in the Channel en route to Britain, French authorities said.
“More than 400 people were saved. Unfortunately, despite efforts, one is missing and another one was declared dead” on Wednesday, the French maritime prefecture said in a statement.
Earlier, Dunkirk prosecutor Sebastien Pieve said that the person who drowned was an adult man who was aboard an overcrowded boat that sank.
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2021