47 people were arrested in Gibraltar and Spain during the course of a police operation to break up a smuggling ring operating between Morocco, the British territory of Gibraltar and Spain.
Police believe more than 130 Moroccans successfully used the smuggling ring in order to enter Spain via the British territory of Gibraltar. Police forces in both territories took part in the operation on Sunday, January 12. The cross-border operation was coordinated by Europol and involved more than 200 officers.
Three people were taken into custody for questioning on Gibraltar and a further 44 were picked up across several Spanish provinces. Reportedly police confiscated more than €19,000, five vehicles and 12 mobile devices.
‘Complex, sophisticated and efficient’ operation
The operation began in November 2018, when, according to the news agency AFP, police noticed "a significant increase in Moroccan travelers from Casablanca and Tangiers arriving in Gibraltar.” Police noted that the smuggling operation was “complex, sophisticated and efficient."
Two of those arrested are being held in temporary detention ahead of a trial.
According to police intelligence, the smugglers were selling fake tourist visas to those smuggled for between €7,000 and €8,000 in order to get them into Gibraltar. From there, it was relatively easy to cross the border to Spain in 4x4 cars with tinted windows and British number plates.
On arrival in Spain, the migrants would then disperse to other parts of Spain or move on to other European countries, France, Italy and Belgium principally; sometimes for an additional fee of €500-700. According to a statement from Gibraltan police, the ring in Morocco earned more than €1 million through the smuggling and also sold contraband cigarettes. AFP report that the traffickers in Spain and Gibraltar additionally “netted close to €80,000.”
The news agency AFP reported that some of those who traveled to other European countries are now facing immigration proceedings in those countries.The Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police, Ian McGrail was reported as saying "Gibraltar will not allow itself to be used by unscrupulous criminals who exploit the human suffering of migrants for economic benefit."