ATHENS – An organized crime group smuggling migrants from Greece to Germany and other European Union groups was targeted in an operation supported by Europol in a raid on four locations in Greece.
Greek authorities searched two houses and arrested one of the main suspects. During the searches, officers from the Greek police found a large number of ID documents, and German authorities identified four suspects living in that country.
The criminal network, which has been active since 2020, predominantly consists of Syrian nationals, their country having seen the most refugees and migrants coming to Greece through Turkey, which is supposed to contain them.
The suspects smuggled migrants mainly via flights from Athens to destinations in Germany, although it wasn’t said how that was managed to be done in the open instead of in trucks and other means to get around authorities.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and international air traffic ground almost to a halt, the smugglers changed their methods to boats across the Mediterranean although many refugees and migrants had crossed the sea to reach Greek islands.
Europol said that the suspects used lookalike documents, taken from people they knew, to migrants mainly from Syrian origin. The network charged between 3500-4500 euros ($3948-$5076) per person.
Europol directed exchange of information and provided analytical support and on raid day coordinated the police activities and crosschecked operational information against the agency’s databases to give leads to investigators in the field.