A total 20 suspects were arrested for human trafficking and four murders in Spain during dismantling of an organised crime group involved in migrant smuggling from Morocco to Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar. The migrants, mainly young individuals and often minors were paying about €2 500 per person for the smuggling services.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency which assist the 27 EU Member States in combating crime and terrorism, said that on March 29, 2021 they supported the Spanish National Police – Policía Nacional– in dismantling an organised crime group involved in migrant smuggling from Morocco to Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar.
More than 150 police officers were deployed in Spain to arrests the suspects, considered dangerous because of their history of violent crimes and suspected possession of weapons.
Simultaneous actions in Algeciras, Ceuta, La Linea de la Concepción and Madrid where in six house searches, 20 suspects arrested on charges with migrant smuggling and 4 murders related to the deaths of people who drowned during a sea crossing.
The police personnel seized three boats — one rubber boat in Ceuta, one fiberglass boat in La Linea and a yacht in Algeciras –, jerry cans and big tanks of fuel totalling some 7 000 litres, five weapons and mobile devices during the operation.
“The criminal network was composed of Spanish and Moroccan nationals. The suspects smuggled Moroccan nationals through the Strait of Gibraltar on different vessels, some of them stolen. The boats were fuelled at sea to avoid suspicions from the authorities,” said Europol.
The suspects transported the migrants in life-threatening conditions without any safety measures in case of emergency at sea. Evidence suggests links between the network and a deadly shipwreck, which took four lives in February.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information, provided operational coordination and analytical support.
On the action day, Europol deployed an analyst to Spain to support with technical expertise and to enable the real-time exchange of information and cross check operational information against Europol’s databases in order to provide leads to investigators in the field.