French and Romanian authorities have arrested 11 members of an organized crime group (OCG) involved in the smuggling of 308 migrants to the United Kingdom. Eighteen house searches were carried out in Romania, where firearms and around €480,000 in cash were seized during the searches. The operation was supported by Europol and Eurojust. Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) provided analysis of operational data and hosted an operational meeting prior to the arrest phase. Eight French investigators traveled to Romania and exchanged information directly between the two authorities.
The OCG was composed mainly of Romanian truck drivers, intermediaries and leaders. Smuggled migrants were mostly from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Palestine. The migrants were transferred to transit sites in northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands, hoping to reach the U.K. as their final destination.
The truck drivers promised ‘guaranteed transit’ to the migrants and charged them a fee between €11,000 and €14,500. The total illegal proceeds amounted to approximately €3.4 million.
So far, 59 active OCG members have been identified. The criminals are suspected of illegal migrant smuggling, participating in a criminal organization and money laundering. France took the lead in the investigation in August 2018, followed by the Romanian and UK authorities in March 2019 and the Dutch investigation in May 2019.