A group suspected of running a multi-million-euro smuggling ring has been arrested in Poland. The suspects are reported to be from Poland, Iraq, Georgia, Tunisia, Syria and Ukraine.
The suspects arrested reportedly charged migrants €3,000 per person to take them from the Belarus border across Poland, according to a report by Euronews. A spokesperson for the Polish Border Guard confirmed that most of those smuggled were aiming for countries in Western Europe, including Germany.
A spokesperson at the Polish prosecutor’s office, Artur Szykula, told Euronews that the group had distributed over €8 million linked to the smuggling. "Persons performing the function of cashiers in the group distributed a considerable amount for the group’s criminal activity."
Even the couriers themselves "received over €4,300.000," according to Szykula. Since the summer more and more migrants have attempted to cross the Belarus-Polish border, as well as trying other routes through the Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania, and on in to Western Europe.
2021 arrivals in Germany
In 2021, Germany’s Federal Police registered 11,213 migrants arriving in the country, many of whom had flown into Belarus and traveled through Poland first. Almost half of those arrived in October alone (5,294).
More than 7,000 migrants attempted the crossing from Belarus towards EU states in 2021. Some 5,000 people were returned from Belarus to their home countries, helped by the EU and the UN migration agency IOM. The majority of them were returned to Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Eastern land borders
However, some migrants on this route also hail from Afghanistan, Syria, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and also Russia, according to Frontex' register of illegal crossings on the EU's eastern land borders between January and December 2021.
The eastern land borders, according to Frontex, comprise those countries bordering Belarus, as well as Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Finland and Norway’s land borders with Moldova, Ukraine, Belaurs and Russia.
Last Thursday, January 13, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania were criticized by officials from the EU and the UN refugee agency UNHCR over the use of "questionable methods" to keep migrants out of their countries.
They included declaring states of emergency at the border, allowing the countries to prevent journalists and NGOs entering the border zone and being able to see for themselves what is going on there.