The Hague, 25 March 2015
With the support of Europol and Eurojust and nearly 400 law enforcement officers, 77 individuals suspected of large-scale illegal immigrant smuggling from Kosovo1 to the EU have been arrested in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Kosovo.
Law enforcement and judicial authorities of the countries involved, supported by Europol, Eurojust and Switzerland, dismantled the organised criminal network which was mainly made up of individuals originating from Kosovo, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The criminal network recruited illegal immigrants in Kosovo and organised their illegal entry into the EU. The immigrants typically travelled to Serbia on their own where they made contact with facilitators who subsequently smuggled them into Hungary by crossing the green border.
Upon their arrival in Hungary, the illegal immigrants were handled by another cell of the same criminal network. In many cases, the immigrants claimed asylum in Hungary prior to being smuggled onwards to their final destinations in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France. For their journeys across Europe, migrants were smuggled in vehicles travelling through Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria. The immigrants paid the facilitators using Western Union or MoneyGram transfers as well as cash. The facilitators charged around EUR 2 800 per person or EUR 7 000 for a whole family to organise a trip from Kosovo to France.
In addition to the arrests of 46 facilitators yesterday (8 in Austria, 16 in the Czech Republic, 12 in France, 1 in Germany, 4 in Hungary, 3 in Kosovo and 2 in Slovakia), previous operations with links to the current investigation resulted in the arrest of 8 members of the same organised criminal network in Austria, 13 in Kosovo, 7 in Hungary and 3 in Germany. During searches, law enforcement authorities confiscated several vehicles, mobile phones, SIM cards, computers, hard drives, forged travel documents, various bank or supporting documents and more than EUR 52 000 in cash.
For the day of action, Europol deployed a mobile office to France to support the operation with on-the-spot intelligence analysis. Europol coordinated simultaneous actions in the different participating countries from its headquarters in The Hague, staffed by senior officers from participating law enforcement authorities. Officers from Europol and Eurojust supported the operation by carrying out cross-checks and analysing incoming information. Throughout the investigation, Europol facilitated the exchange of intelligence, hosted operational meetings and provided tailored analytical support to investigators, while Eurojust organised a coordination meeting for prosecutors.
Yesterday’s common action is the first tangible result of Operation FALKO, operational action 2.1, initiated by Hungary, within the EMPACT Illegal Immigration Operational Action Plan 2015.2 Hungary and other EU Member States cooperated closely with law enforcement authorities in non-EU countries and with the Kosovo Police in particular, to ensure the operation’s success.
1 This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
2 European Multi-annual Platform Against Criminal Threats