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.