Some 130 German police officers alone took part in the raids and searches | Photo: Matthias Balk / dpa / picture alliance
Some 130 German police officers alone took part in the raids and searches | Photo: Matthias Balk / dpa / picture alliance

Police in Germany say six people were arrested in raids across three countries as part of an investigation into a human trafficking network. The ring smuggled victims along the Balkan migrant route in cargo trucks

Police in eastern Germany on Wednesday said they and cross-border colleagues had broken up a people-smuggling ring with six suspects arrested in raids across Germany, Romania and Bulgaria.

The network is accused of smuggling hundreds of people to Germany in "inhumane" conditions via the Balkan migrant route.

What we know about the investigation

Police in the city of Potsdam

said officers had executed six arrest warrants and searched 15 properties — eleven of them in Romania.

The suspects are alleged to have smuggled more than 560 migrants into Germany in 68 smuggling cases and more than 300 migrants into Romania in 25 smuggling cases.

The suspects allegedly forced the migrants to hide among cargo in trucks "under inhumane conditions for several days" en-route to Germany after being taken from Timisoara in Romania.

Police arrested four of the suspects in Romania while searching properties used to house those being smuggled.

Federal police in Germany apprehended a 38-year-old Syrian national in the western city of Essen, with the German raids also taking place in the states of Bavaria and Brandenburg. Another suspect was arrested in connection with the case in Bulgaria during the past week.

High-end vehicles seized

Almost 200 officers were involved in the swoop, including 130 in Germany alone.

Police said officers had seized three high-value vehicles, various mobile phones, cash and other evidence during the raids, with those detained to appear before local courts.

The smugglers demanded €4,000 to 5,000 (about $4,300 to $5,350) for the transport from Romania. In total, the journey from Turkey to the EU cost up to €10,000. 

Officials opened an investigation after they had gathered witness accounts from Turkish and Syrian nationals in Germany's border regions with Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. As early as July 2022, Serbian police had also tracked a suspected smuggler linked to the gang.

Germany has seen a renewed rise in the number of asylum seekers over the last year after a huge influx in 2015-2016.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government agreed on tighter measures last month, including partnerships with some countries of origin of new arrivals to take their citizens back.

rc/jcg (dpa, AFP, KNA)

First published: June 7, 2023

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