Europol said it has arrested eleven suspected people smugglers who brought people into the EU via Belarus. It broke up a ring that is estimated to have made €7 million as income.
Investigators in Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and the United Kingdom were reportedly involved in the cross-border operation to bring down the smuggling ring. Europol said that those arrested consisted of Syrian and Turkish nationals who had organized the irregular transport of Iraqi citizens from Baghdad to the EU.
Ten of the suspects were arrested in Poland as part of the Europol operation. Another arrest was made in the UK.
Europol said that an important member of the network was apprehended following an arrest warrant issued by Germany. The police agency added that it had seized proof during searches in Poland, consisting of receipts for money transfers as well as electronic material. Cash was also seized during those searches.
The migrants taken into the EU by the smuggling network reportedly paid between €10,000 and 13,000 each for their migration. They were all intended to come to Germany via Belarus.
Europol estimate that criminal network pocketed at least €7 million as income in total this way.
Last summer, thousands of migrants arrived at the EU's external borders via Belarus, but were in nearly all instances turned away there by Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian border authorities. Some, however, managed to cross the border irregularly.
The EU has accused Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately helping to smuggle migrants into the EU in order to destabilize the bloc and exert pressure over sanctions imposed on the east European nation.