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#1 2023-07-24 23:04:02

Registered: 2023-01-04
Posts: 1,919

62 transnational smugglers of migrants were detained

A transnational criminal ring smuggling migrants from Cuba to the European Union has been dismantled by law enforcement in five different countries. 25 of the 62 people arrested as a result of the investigation—which was coordinated by Europol and INTERPOL—were Cuban citizens. Members of the migrant smuggling network advertised their illegal services to vulnerable Cuban clients using a popular messaging app. They would plan the trip, arrange transfers, and give false documentation in exchange for a payment of about EUR 9 000. Because Serbia at the time did not require a visa for entry, the criminals flew people in from Cuba. After that, migrants would be flown into Spain via Greece after being smuggled there. The criminal organization is thought to have successfully smuggled about 5,000 Cuban nationals into the EU, earning them a profit of about EUR 45 million.

The investigation turned up a sophisticated criminal infrastructure that had been set up in numerous cities throughout Serbia, Greece, and Spain. This infrastructure was nimble and adaptable, allowing the criminals to continue operating their illegal enterprises despite shifting conditions. On the action day in June 2023, law enforcement officials from all three nations seized a range of illegal items, including forgery tools and hundreds of fake documents. In total, 144 bank accounts, 18 pieces of real estate, 33 vehicles, and enormous sums of money in different currencies were seized.

unusually expensive and long smuggling route.
The investigation was started in October 2021 after Serbian, Greek, North Macedonian, and Finnish authorities alerted authorities to an increase in Cuban citizens trying to enter Europe with forged documents. Europol, the European Union Agency for Asylum, and Frontex all released Joint Intelligence Notifications in January 2023 that showed this pattern. Russian aggression in Ukraine had an impact on migrant smuggling routes, according to the notification with the subject "Cuban nationals smuggled into the EU: shifting routes and modi operandi in a changed geo-political landscape.".

Initially, Cuban nationals flew commercially from Cuba to Russia. Smugglers there gave them the choice of flying to Serbia to continue their journey through the Western Balkans into Central or Southern Europe, or crossing the Finnish-Russian border illegally to enter EU territory. The path was altered ever since Russia started its war against Ukraine. A flight from Frankfurt Airport in Germany to Serbia carried Cuban nationals. The criminal network would help the Cuban nationals enter North Macedonia and Greece illegally after they arrived in Serbia. The smugglers would lead large groups of migrants along a variety of routes, forcing them to walk for hours in the dark without supplies. Along with these difficult circumstances, the criminals would prey on the most defenseless migrants, including children, and subject them to scams, robberies, and extortion. In some instances, women were moved to other criminal organizations for sexual exploitation.

The migrants would use further transportation to other EU nations arranged by the criminals, such as flights to Spain or sea transport to Italy, after arriving in Greece. The criminal network used the so-called "lookalike method," in which real travel documents are stolen and given to a migrant who closely resembles the real passport holder, to provide migrants with forged documents so they could travel within the EU.

Position of Europol.
Numerous operational gatherings were organized by Europol, which also made it easier for its partners to collaborate, coordinate, and exchange personnel. Three Europol analysts and a specialist were sent to Spain, Greece, and Serbia on the activity day. The specialist and analysts offered on-the-spot assistance with cross-match reports and intelligence analysis. Additionally, a group of Europol investigators from the organization's headquarters in The Hague supported the action day by coordinating with and advising the personnel who had been deployed.


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