A small boat carrying migrants off the southeast coast of Spain, north of the Moroccan-Algerian border, in the Mediterranean Sea | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA
A small boat carrying migrants off the southeast coast of Spain, north of the Moroccan-Algerian border, in the Mediterranean Sea | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA

Spanish police announced on February 3 they had arrested 26 suspected smugglers. The group is thought to have brought more than 900 migrants from Algeria to Spain during 2019, earning at least €1.5 million.

A series of six raids across Almeria and Alicante rounded up 26 suspected smugglers and led to police confiscating 17 vehicles. The smuggling network stretched from Algeria across the Mediterranean to southeastern Spain; mostly in the provinces of Alicante and Almeria. The suspected smugglers are thought to have operated with powerful speedboats and charged migrants around €2,500 per head in order to bring the mostly Algerian migrants from the port of Oran, in Algeria, to Spain.

The news agency AFP reported that the journey on board the boat took on average about three hours. A second route between Tangiers in northern Morocco and the Spanish port of Algeciras was also run by the gang.

The Spanish police statement, quoted by AFP, read: "Each immigrant had to pay the organization between €2,000 and €2,500 for the crossing” an extra 500 euros was charged in order to be transported by car to various cities in southern and eastern Spain “where they stayed with friends."

€1.5 million earnings in 2019

The network is thought to have earned more than €1.5 million in 2019. Anyone who didn't pay, or couldn't pay the full amount, reported AFP, would be "dumped along the way or held hostage until their families covered the amount owed."

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the number of arrivals to Spain halved in 2019 compared to those of 2018, (32,513 in 2019 compared to 65,383 between January and December 2018). The majority of those that arrived in mainland Spain and the Canary Islands in 2019 came from Morocco (28%) with Guinea (17%) and then Algeria (15%) close behind. The vast majority of arrivals to Spain came through Andalusia (80%). Algerians accounted for the majority of arrivals in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta (39%) but only 1,967 people were registered as arriving there overall.

The nationality of the detainees was not released by the police. AFP reports that since Morocco has begun to clamp down on migration from its borders to Spain, smugglers and migrants have been pushed to seek out other routes, including from Algeria.

With AFP, UNHCR

 

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