Nearly 50 suspected gang members arrested in Gibraltar for smuggling migrants into Europe

Nearly 50 suspected gang members arrested in Gibraltar for smuggling migrants into Europe
Nearly 50 suspected gang members arrested in Gibraltar for smuggling migrants into Europe

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Police have arrested nearly 50 suspected gang members in Gibraltar that allegedly smuggled migrants into Europe by fraudulently obtaining them British tourist visas.

The migrant smuggling ring charged about €8,000 (Dh 32,675) per person and trafficked more than 130 people from Morocco into Spain and other European states, Gibraltar and Spanish police said on Sunday.

More than 200 officers, directed by Europol, made 47 arrests when tracking down the crime syndicate, which had made more than €1 million from its illegal activities.

Five vehicles, 12 mobile phones and €19,000 was seized in searches in the Gibraltar and the Campo area.

44 people were arrested from Spanish provinces, with three more were detained in Gibraltar on European arrest warrants.

The investigation began in November 2018 after the Royal Gibraltar Police noticed an unusually high number of Moroccans entering the British territory on short-stay UK visas. The visas didn’t allow entry into any country within the Schengen Area, meaning they couldn't enter Spain legally.

The investigation found that the traffickers in Morocco planned migrants' journeys and prepared the false documents to show to British authorities for a visa.

Once the visas were obtained, the smuggling ring would book a plane ticket for the migrant, provide them with a hotel reservation in Gibraltar and instruct them on who to contact on the island. The contact in Gibraltar would then help them cross the border into Europe secretively in SUV vehicles.

Royal Gibraltar police commissioner Ian McGrail said: “This investigation is one visible example of the type of work that goes on behind the scenes to protect our borders from threats to national security.

“It also sends a message that Gibraltar will not allow itself to be used by unscrupulous criminals who exploit the human suffering of migrants for economic benefit. Organised crime has a huge impact on society at large. We are therefore duty-bound to counteract activities which pose a risk to our community with all the policing instruments at our disposal.”

On Christmas and Boxing Day last year, 300 migrants in makeshift boats were rescued off the coast of Spain. Several of the migrant dinghies were found off the coast of Gibraltar and the Canary Islands, just south of Spain.

Last year, 1,317 migrants died while attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean, according to the UN's International Organisation for Migration.

Updated: January 13, 2020 01:29 AM

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