Afghan people-smuggling racket smashed in Europe

Twenty-one arrested during co-ordinated raids in Romania

Migrants are seen inside a refrigerated truck found by police, after a check at a motorway near Xanthi, Greece, November 4, 2019. REUTERS/Stavros Karipidis NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

A criminal network suspected of smuggling hundreds of Afghans picked up from refugee camps has been broken up by police.

Romania and German police arrested 16 Afghans, an Iranian and four Romanians suspected of involvement in the smuggling of migrants into western Europe hidden in lorries, European police agency Europol said.

The group is believed to have operated from Romania since May 2020 and charged the migrants up to €2,000 ($2,312) for a place on the lorries making their way to Germany and France.

Investigators said the migrants climbed on board while the drivers were sleeping at lorry stops and were unaware of their human cargo.

The migrants hid between goods such as tree trunks and pallets for several days before they were able to jump off when drivers unloaded their cargo.

During the raids in Romania, police seized cash, 83 mobile phones and other electronic equipment and 10 morphine vials.

Europol reported in May that the number of lorries carrying people on the Western Balkans route from Turkey and Greece into central Europe and beyond had surged as gangs recovered from a hit to their operations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Updated: October 7th 2021, 8:55 PM