Police have carried out raids across Germany and Slovakia as part of an operation against human trafficking gangs. Two people were arrested, with 30 more individuals found at properties in several German states.
Police targeted suspected trafficking sites in the German states of Berlin, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. Authorities said the raid had dealt a major blow to human trafficking operations in Berlin, one of the main hotspots for smuggling people from Vietnam to Europe.
Two female suspects were arrested in the simultaneous raids. One Vietnamese national was arrested in Berlin, with the second suspect arrested in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.
The suspects are accused of smuggling people from Vietnam to Germany via Bratislava, allegedly charging fees between €13,000 and 21,000 ($15,850 to $25,600). The women they smuggled were forced to pay off their fees by working in nail salons, massage studios and brothel apartments.
A third suspect, a Vietnamese man, allegedly gave hormone injections to women working as prostitutes in Germany to prevent them from becoming pregnant, said prosecutors and police in a statement.
According to authorities, the trafficked individuals were first flown from Vietnam to Eastern Europe. After arriving on the continent, they were transported across a range of routes to Berlin, as well across Germany into other countries such as Belgium, France and the UK.
Berlin was the focal point of the raids, with 16 properties out of the total 33 sites targeted. About 700 police officers were involved in the transborder operation.
“We now have to clarify whether these people have also entered the country without permission or were smuggled in, or if they are also supporters of this inhumane smuggling and human trafficking,” explained Holger Uhlitzsch, spokesman for the federal police force overseeing border control, the Bundespolizei, in Dresden.
Berlin has been the site of repeated raids on human trafficking operations. Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) have described Lichtenberg as a “pivotal point” for Vietnamese human trafficking operations in Western Europe.
The Berlin-Lichtenberg area is home to a large Asian market, made up of some 350 stores in large halls in addition to stores in the surrounding area. Police say the market has repeatedly played a key logistical role in human trafficking operations in the area.
In March, close to 170 police officers searched eight properties throughout Berlin, Hamburg and the Baltic Sea resort Timmendorfer Strand in relation to a human trafficking investigation. The main suspect, a Vietnamese woman, was arrested in her home in Berlin.
As a result of Monday’s raids, police found and detained 13 trafficked people who were in Germany illegally.