Police in eastern Germany said on Wednesday that they and their cross-border colleagues had dismantled a people smuggling network and that six suspects had been arrested in raids in Germany, Romania and Bulgaria.
The network is accused of smuggling hundreds of people into Germany in “inhumane” conditions via the Balkan migrant route.
What we know about the investigation
Potsdam City Police said officers executed six arrest warrants and searched 15 properties, including eleven in Romania.
The suspects allegedly smuggled more than 560 migrants to Germany in 68 cases of smuggling and more than 300 migrants to Romania in 25 cases of smuggling.
The suspects allegedly forced the migrants to hide among goods in trucks “in inhumane conditions for several days” en route to Germany after being taken to Timisoara in Romania.
Police arrested four of the suspects in Romania while they searched properties used to house illegal immigrants.
German federal police apprehended a 38-year-old Syrian national in the western city of Essen, and the German raids also took place in the states of Bavaria and Brandenburg. Another suspect was arrested last week in connection with this case in Bulgaria.
High-end vehicles seized
Nearly 200 officers were involved in the attack, including 130 in Germany alone.
Police said officers seized three high-value vehicles, various mobile phones, cash and other evidence during the searches, and those arrested were expected to appear in local courts.
The smugglers demanded between 4,000 and 5,000 euros (about $4,300 to $5,350) for transport from Romania. In total, the journey from Turkey to the EU costs up to €10,000.
Authorities opened an investigation after collecting testimonies from Turkish and Syrian nationals in Germany’s border regions with Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. As early as July 2022, Serbian police had also tracked down a suspected smuggler linked to the gang.
Germany has seen a further increase in the number of asylum seekers over the past year, following a massive influx in 2015-2016.
The government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz has agreed on stricter measures last monthincluding partnerships with some newcomer countries of origin to bring back their citizens.
rc/jcg (dpa, AFP, KNA)