The Spanish Civil Guard, working in coordination with the European police agency EUROPOL, announced on Wednesday the arrest of 7 people in relation to a people smuggling organisation operating between Spain and the United Kingdom.
In a statement, the Civil Guard said that the 7 people taken into custody were of Iraqi, Albanian and Spanish nationality and have been facilitating the entry into British territory, by sea, to illegal immigrants, through ferries departing to the United Kingdom from the ports of Santander and Santurtzi in the Basque country.
The individuals under arrest are facing charges of belonging to a criminal organisation and committing crimes “against the rights of foreign citizens,” according to a press release by the Civil Guard.
In the operation, the Civil Guard raided three addresses, two of which were allegedly used to hide migrants before smuggling them out of Spain on ferries. They also seized several mobile phones, computers, bank cards, money remittance cards and several identity documents and passports of different nationalities and identities.
The investigation was initiated because of the increasing number of interceptions of Albanians trying to access the port area of Santurtzi.
As a result of the investigation, the Civil Guard discovered that the criminal group was in charge of transferring immigrants, who were mostly of Albanian nationality as well as refugees from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, from their settlement sites to Cantabria and the Basque country where they provided them with accommodation. Part of the service the traffickers provided was to help the migrants hide as stowaways in trailers, containers, caravans and in vehicles parked in the parking lot of the shipping companies, before boarding the ferries departing for the United Kingdom.
The Civil Guard has reported that the organisation has chapters in several countries, including France, Belgium and the United Kingdom.