Spain smashes Madrid airport migrant smuggling ring

AFP - [email protected]
Spain smashes Madrid airport migrant smuggling ring
Migrants sleep in the transit area of the Madrid Barajas airport terminal. Photo: AFP

Spanish police said Thursday they have smashed an international ring which smuggled some 200 Senegalese nationals into Europe via Madrid airport, which has been overwhelmed recently by an influx of asylum seekers.


Officers arrested 12 alleged members of the ring, which had created a manual that outlined in detail how to request asylum in Spain by falsely claiming to be a minor from war-torn nations like Mali or Ethiopia, police said in a statement.

Among those arrested is the suspected leader of the network.

The gang instructed the migrants to fly to Casablanca in Morocco, and then buy a plane ticket to several destinations in South America with a layover in Madrid.

"Once they boarded in Casablanca with their original passport, they tore up their passport inside the plane," the statement said.

On arrival in Madrid, they requested asylum and since they claimed to by minors, they were not detained at the airport but were instead sent to protection centres across Madrid, it added.

The network then picked them up and transported them by car to Belgium, France or Germany, or to a bus station where they could travel on their own to another destination.


Nearly 200 people entered Europe this way, a police spokeswoman said. The suspects - 11 Senegalese and a Spanish national - were arrested in the Spanish capital and in the southeastern city of Alcoy, she added.

READ ALSO: Madrid airport overwhelmed by asylum seekers

Madrid airport, Spain's busiest, has experienced a surge in asylum requests in recent months, which has forced the authorities to open two new rooms to house them following complaints over overcrowding and poor hygiene in the existing spaces.

The government also started requiring a transit visa for nationals from Senegal and Kenya who wish to travel through a Spanish airport to try to curb the influx.


More asylum claims were made at the airport in January - 864 - than during all of 2022, the last year for which official figures are available, when 767 were filed.

Spain is one of the main gateways for immigration into Europe. A total of 56,852 undocumented migrants entered Spain last year, an 82.1 percent jump from 2022, mainly due to a record number landing in the Canary Islands.


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