Gang trafficking Afghans to EU busted in Spain

Police in Spain have broken up a gang that smuggled Afghans into Europe for a fee of €23,000

Gang trafficking Afghans to EU busted in Spain
The gang operated out of Madrid. Photo: mwagner01 /

Police arrested 24 people in Spain and Britain in raids on a gang that made $4.25 million in six months from trafficking Afghan migrants to Europe, the Spanish government said Wednesday.

Officers in Spain arrested 13 people and British police seized a further 11 at London Heathrow airport, the Spanish police said in a statement.

They raided various properties and seized records that showed the gang made $4.25 million by trafficking 170 people between April and September last year.

“Most of the network's members were based in Afghanistan and gathered people who wanted to emigrate to Europe, charging them $25,000 (€23,000) each and transporting them using fake travel documents,” the statement said.

Gang members  are suspected of accompanying the migrants in groups of between six and 12 on flights from Islamabad in Pakistan.

From there they flew to transit points in Spain and Italy, then onward to various other European countries including Germany and Sweden.

Police investigated the network after catching a group of Afghans who were being trafficked via Bilbao airport in northern Spain.

They then tracked down the gang's leader, a Pakistani based in Madrid who had been running the network since 2012.

“He organised the logistics and reinvested the profits of the crimes in our country, using various businesses to launder the money,” the statement said.

Earlier this month Spanish police said they arrested 80 suspected gang members accused of charging Chinese migrants €20,000 each to traffick them to Britain, Ireland, Canada and the United States.

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Police arrest trafficking gang who smuggled people into Spain by speedboat

Spanish police on Monday said they had arrested 26 suspected smugglers who brought more than 900 migrants to Spain last year, mostly from Algeria, charging 2,500 euros ($2,800) per person.

Police arrest trafficking gang who smuggled people into Spain by speedboat
The gang smuggled in more than 900 people during 2019 earning over €1.5m Photo: Interior Ministry

The network, which was based in Algeria and the southeastern Spanish provinces of Alicante and Almeria, used powerful speedboats which set out from the northern port of Oran and crossed the western Mediterranean in three hours, a police statement said.   

It also ran a route between Tangiers in northern Morocca and the southern Spanish port of Algeciras.

“Each immigrant had to pay the organisation between €2,000 and €2,500  for the crossing” and another 500 euros to be transported by car to cities in southern and eastern Spain “where they stayed with family and friends,” it

If they failed to stump up the full payment, they were dumped along the way or held hostage until their families covered the amount owed in a business which earned the network “more than €1.5 million” last year, the police said.

The detainees, whose nationality was not given, were mainly rounded up during six raids in Almeria and Alicante during which police also confiscated 17 vehicles.   

Spain is one of the main gateways to Europe for migrants coming from Africa, with some 26,168 people arriving by sea in 2019, interior ministry figures show.

But overall, the numbers coming by sea have fallen significantly, down 54.5 percent on 57,498 who made the journey a year earlier.    

The figures have fallen since Morocco stepped up its fight against irregular migration in coordination with European and Spanish authorities in a move which has pushed those desperate to reach Europe to seek out other
routes, notably via Algeria.