Europol said 29 people have been arrested in France and Spain, accused of being part of a criminal ring involved in trafficking migrants, including minors.
Spanish and French national police forces have dismantled a vast criminal network involved in human and drug trafficking, according to a statement released by Europol on Tuesday.
It said the group also targeted unaccompanied minors in protection centers in Spain. The criminals alledgedly pushed the minors to leave the protection centers and undertake dangerous journeys toward Western Europe.
Recruiters of various nationalities
Authorities said the group used recruiters of various nationalities to target migrants from their individual countries - Algeria, Mali, Morocco, and Syria. The irregular migrants were brought from the Spanish port of Almería to France on coaches owned by French, Moroccan, and Spanish companies.
The criminal group also used the coaches to transport contraband such as marijuana, tobacco and animals.
Arrests and seizures
The investigation began with the arrest of a Spanish citizen in France who was driving a bus with 22 irregular migrants aboard, six of whom were minors. A large-scale probe followed in Spain, which uncovered a criminal network allegedly run by a Moroccan citizen who acts as the principal director of the company that owns the coaches.
The police operation resulted in the arrest of 26 suspects in Spain and three in France, as well as leading to 14 homes being searched as part of the investigation. Police seized €33,000, various documents, computer equipment, over 200kg of marijuana, a vehicle, and a trailer.
Europol participated in the operation offering support, coordination, analysis, and information exchange.