19 Apr, 2024 @ 16:05
1 min read

Trafficked into Spain and exploited in restaurants: Police and Guardia Civil bust network that was paying a pittance to Colombian nationals in four Tarragona eateries

Guardia Civil operation to bust a trafficking ring
Guardia Civil

A JOINT operation between the Policia Nacional and the Guardia Civil has busted a network in Spain’s Catalunya region that was trafficking Colombian nationals into the country and forcing them to work in restaurants for a pittance. 

Twelve people have been arrested in Tarragona province and Italy, and face charges of belonging to a criminal organisation, human trafficking for labour purposes, unlawful detention and document fraud. 

Searches by the authorities also turned up weapons, more than €22,000 in cash, documents and computer equipment. 

The investigation began back in October, when officers received information about Colombian nationals who were being forced to work in appalling conditions in four establishments across Tarragona province. 

Read more: Dangerous ‘devil hitman’ from Colombia ‘who excelled in kidnap, torture and making people disappear’ is arrested on Spain’s Costa Blanca

Guardia Civil operation to bust a trafficking ring
Guardia Civil operation to bust a trafficking ring in Tarragona. Guardia Civil

The workers had no contracts or residency documents, and were being monitored by CCTV at their accommodation, which was also substandard.

The victims had travelled to Spain after being promised work contracts by the organisation, but once they signed up they were told they had incurred a debt for the travel and administration, leaving them at the mercy of their new bosses. 

Once in Spain, they were made to work between 12 and 15 hours a day, seven days a week, receiving in some cases just €20 a shift. 

To conceal the fact that the victims were in Spain on tourist visas, they were forced to sign up for training courses that they never actually took, which also cost them large sums of money. 

The court investigating the case has ordered the four establishments in question to be closed. 

A total of 18 victims were freed during the probe, as well as a further 28 who were new recruits, for a total of 46. 

More than 180 officers from the Policia Nacional and the Guardia Civil took part in the operation.

Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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