NEARLY 50 people have been arrested after a migrant smuggling ring that operated through Gibraltar was broken up in a huge police operation.
Over 200 Policia Naconal agents worked with the Royal Gibraltar Police through Europol in an operation that spanned throughout Spain and Europe.
Five vehicles as well as 12 mobile phones and €19,000 in cash was seized after a number of searches both in Gibraltar and the Campo area.
A total of 44 people were arrested from Spanish provinces, with three more detained in Gibraltar on European Arrest Warrants.
The people smugglers were believed to have made up to €1million euros from the scheme, charging each migrant up to €8,000 to bring them into Europe.
The alarm was first raised in 2018 after the RGP noticed an unusually large number of people entering Gibraltar with UK short-stay visas.
Following further investigation, it was revealed that Moroccans from Casablanca and Tangier had their documents fraudulently arranged by the ring.
They were then provided with flights and accommodation in Gibraltar, being instructed to meet with local contacts.
Under cover of night when it was difficult to identify them, they were driven into Spain via the frontier on their own vehicles.
After a night in La Linea at hostels or the ringleaders’ homes they were then given coach tickets to different parts of Spain.
Drivers, taxi-drivers and other members of the criminal group helped move around the migrants at the cost of upto €200 each.
The ring, which also smuggled tobacco, proved resourceful in evading police for some time, bringing around 130 Moroccans into the EU.
“Organised crime is inherently transnational, causes significant harm and affects the stability of communities,” said RGP Commissioner Ian McGrail.
“We are satisfied with the successful outcome of our joint operation with the CNP (Cuerpo Nacional de Policia) which has made possible thedismantling of an organised crime group operating on both sides of the border.
“This cross-border police cooperation serves to underline just how seriously the RGP views threats of this nature, and how seriously we take our responsibilities to thwart activities that pose serious risks to the community.”
With the Straits of Gibraltar being one of the main crossing points in the world for those seeking a better life in Europe, organised crime seeks to prey on this basic human desire.
McGrail said that ‘unscrupulous criminals who exploit the human suffering of migrants for economic benefit’ had ‘a huge impact on society at large’.