Europol breaks up ring smuggling migrants to Poland via Belarus

Marcin Onufryjuk/PAP

Europol, the European law-enforcement coordination agency, announced on Thursday it had broken up a criminal network smuggling migrants from Iraq through Belarus to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia and then on to other EU countries.

Europol said in a press release that as a result of coordinated activities, eight people were detained on Wednesday (five in Germany, two in Lithuania and one in Poland). A total of 17 locations were searched in these countries, uncovering 12 migrant transfers involving 13 facilitators and 30 migrants. Electronic equipment, documents and cash were seized.

Europol said that from the start of January this year, a total of 61 people had been arrested in connection with more than 100 smuggling incidents from Belarus to the EU. Those suspected of organising the smuggling were mostly citizens or Syria and Turkey, Europol said.

"The migrants recruited in Iraq travelled to Russia via Turkey and then to Belarus before entering the EU through the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland," the agency wrote in a statement on its website. "The final destinations were predominantly Germany and, to a lesser extent, Finland."

Europol reported that the migrants were flown to Belarus then driven across the Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish borders and then onward to Germany and Finland by drivers recruited mainly from Ukraine.

The suspects took between EUR 3,000 and EUR 5,000 per migrant, amassing at least EUR 16 million.