Dozens of arrests have been made across Europe in a major crackdown on people- smuggling. Law enforcement agencies from several countries carried out raids across the EU, including Germany.
The Hague-based EU policing agency, Europol, said on Wednesday that up to 400 law enforcement officers arrested 77 people suspected of "large-scale irregular migrant smuggling" from Kosovo into the EU.
The majority of the arrests were made on Tuesday in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Kosovo in an operation to crack the criminal network.
Europol said in a statement that the suspects originated mainly from eastern European countries, including Kosovo, Slovakia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Illegal migrants would travel to Serbia alone and then be smuggled into western Europe via Hungary, said Europol
Gang members are alleged to have smuggled migrants into Hungary after meeting up with them in Serbia.
Some migrants were then handed over to another people-trafficking ring or claimed asylum in Hungary before reaching their final destinations in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France.
The criminal network charged around 2,800 euros ($3,000) per person, or 7,000 euros to smuggle a whole family from Kosovo to France.
Law enforcement authorities confiscated several vehicles, mobile phones, SIM cards, computers, hard drives, forged travel documents, and more than 52,000 euros in cash.
Called Operation FALKO, the raids were carried out as concerns were raised across the EU at the rising numbers of migrants making it to Europe's southern and eastern borders. Many of them were fleeing poverty and conflict across the Middle East.
lw/kms (AFP, Reuters)