Spanish Police Break Up Balkan Immigrant Smuggling Network

The Spanish National Police have joined other European forces to break up a smuggling network that brought of hundreds of illegal Pakistanis into the European Union through the Balkans.

The smugglers used commercial haulage vehicles to transport the migrants, who were jammed into the back of the lorries and transported in the the most dangerous conditions.

The migrants were transported in dangerous and inhumane conditions, with some lorries carrying more than 50 people in a space of 8 square meters, according to a statement released by Spanish authrorities.

The international operation, which was run under the auspices of the Europol, involved police forces from Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Italy, Greece, Italy and Romania, as well as Spain.

Fifteen people, including 12 Spaniards, have been detained on charges of smuggling “at least”  400 people into the EU during the last eight months.

Europol classified the ringleader, who was arrested in Romania, as a “high-value target.”

Spanish investigators said the gang of people smugglers gathered migrants in Pakistan and sent them to the EU through the Bihac refugee camp in Bosnia which was the main logistic hub for the network.

Spanish haulage drivers then transported the Pakistani travelers to the Croatia-Slovenia border. There, migrants had to walk again and rejoined the truck only once they were inside Slovenia, from where they were taken to their final destinations.

The price per person from Bosnia to Slovenia was 3,000 Euros , police said. From Bosnia to Italy it was 5,000-8,000 Euros.

The gang charged between 12 and 20,0000 Euros to smuggle migrants from Pakistan into an EU country.

The lorries were rented in Spain. Spanish police said the truck drivers were fully aware of the type of load they were carrying.

According to the Spanish police statement, a car accompanied each lorry, driving ahead in order to warn of possible check-points.

The gang’s cars and trucks were also involved in drug trafficking networks, police allege.

The operation began when Spanish police intercepted a lorry which was carrying 77 people, four of them minors.

The travel conditions on that trip were so dangerous that the migrants had to drill holes in the back of the lorry in order to breathe.

The investigation continues.