Investigators in Germany's western state of North Rhine-Westphalia have arrested several suspected smugglers during a raid on Thursday. Two men and one woman were arrested after being issued warrants in the run-up to the operation.
Twelve apartments and offices belonging to a total of 11 suspects in the case were raided in Cologne, Gelsenkirchen and Limburg on Thursday (October 20).
The searches were conducted as part of a shared effort between Germany's federal police (Bundespolizei) and the Cologne public prosecutor's office, reported the local newspaper Kölnische Rundschau.
Faking real documents
The suspects in the case are largely believed to come from Syria. They are alleged to have helped foreign nationals come to Germany using irregular means of migration — chiefly by producing illegal identity cards to those wanting to migrate to Germany.
By forging such ID documents, those seeking entry into Germany would be able to show that they have a supposed right of residence in Germany, allowing them to travel.
Before entering the country, however, the immigrants would allegedly dispose of those documents in order to be able to apply for asylum in Germany at the border.
The suspected smugglers reportedly made several thousand euros in each smuggling operation. During the searches on Thursday, around €12,000 in cash were seized — in addition to several cell phones, laptops, computers and identity documents.
Complicit local government employee
The smugglers reportedly received support from an employee working at the Cologne Foreigners' Office ("Ausländeramt"). She is alleged to have been pivotal in issuing certificates and passports for foreigners over a period of at least three months.
The 58-year-old public servant in question has also been arrested in the meantime.
The Federal Police said that it had investigated 26 cases linked to the alleged smuggling operation to date. However, the investigation is still ongoing, and more cases might yet be discovered.