More than 600 raids and almost 100 charged in European migrant ring crackdown

People paid up to €10,000 each to be smuggled by the gang into Western Europe

Bulgaria's largest refugee camp is 45km from the Turkish border and houses mainly migrants from Syria. Getty
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Europe's crime agency Europol has targeted a gang charging people up to €10,000 to smuggle them to Western Europe.

Authorities have raided 624 areas across Europe and charged 92 people with being involved in migrant smuggling.

The investigation, led by Bulgarian authorities, targeted criminal networks operating along the Balkan route.

The main modes of transport used by the smugglers were vans, campers and buses.

The Bulgarian investigation was co-ordinated with Turkish and Serbian authorities and other partner agencies.

It saw more than 7,000 people stopped and 4,200 vehicles checked.

The joint action took place across Bulgaria and focused on a number of networks smuggling migrants from Turkey, via Bulgaria, to Serbia and then Western Europe.

“The main organisers of the networks active along this route are based in Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey,” Europol said.

“They have created their own national networks of members responsible for the transport and accommodation in their respective countries.

“The prices for the full smuggling service in larger groups varied between €2,000 and €3,000 per person.

“If the migrants were smuggled in a smaller group of five to six people, the payments were reaching up to €10,000. Payments for the full trip would be made after the main organiser from Turkey had confirmed that the migrants had reached the Bulgarian-Serbian border.”

Bulgarian authorities have reported an increase in migrant smuggling activities on their southern border since last year.

“In August 2022 an incident which involved a bus transporting irregular migrants led to the death of two police officers on duty,” Europol said.

“Later the same year, an officer from Bulgaria’s Border Police was shot dead during regular patrol at the green border with Turkey. These incidents suggest an increase of both the smuggling activities and the violence of the involved criminal networks.”

Updated: January 18, 2023, 1:51 PM