Romanian police have dismantled an organized crime group that smuggled hundreds of migrants across the so-called Balkan route.
In one instance, smugglers crammed up to 100 people in a 60m 2 house, Europol said. on Friday. Migrants paid 10,000 euros to smugglers to cross the Balkans and reach Western Europe.
Migrants, some of them with young children, were housed in squalid conditions and transported in trucks and vans with poor ventilation.
The criminal network, active since October 2020, consisted of Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian and Romanian citizens.
The criminal group had cells in the countries across the Balkan route from where regional facilitators managed the recruitment, accommodation and transport of migrants from Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Officers from the Romanian police and border police aided by Europol dismantled the criminal group in a probe called Operation Barbershop.
They carried out 22 house searches, arrested 18 suspects and seized weapons, cars mobile phones and 22,000 euros in cash.
Several criminal cells based in Romania helped migrants cross from Bulgaria and Serbia into Romania.
They had temporary accommodation in the Bucharest area and in western Romania.
The migrants were then smuggled to Hungary on their way to Germany as a final destination.
In total, 26 illegal transports of migrants were intercepted. Some 490 migrants were detected while attempting to illegally cross the Romanian border.
The criminal group was involved in other criminal activities as well, such as drug trafficking, document fraud and property crime.
Migrants paid between 4,000 and 10, 000 euros for the passage. The price for facilitating the crossing from Romania to Germany was between 4,000 and 5 000 euros.
Some of the migrants were families with young children and were housed in poor conditions, with no access to toilets or running water.
In one house with an area of about 60 m2, suspects hid 100 people at the same time. The migrants were then transferred in risky conditions in overcrowded lorries transporting merchandise. They were hidden in vans lacking proper ventilation.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support.
On Thursday, Europol deployed one analyst to Romania to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real time to provide leads to investigators in the field.