Europol has arrested a total of 92 people for allegedly smuggling migrants from Turkey through Bulgaria to Serbia and then to Western Europe.
With the support of Europol, Bulgarian authorities investigated cases against organized crime groups related to smuggling migrants, which checked 624 locations, 4,202 vehicles and 7,019 people, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
In addition, Bulgarian investigations are also coordinated with Turkish and Serbian authorities and other partner agencies.
“Joint operations took place across Bulgaria and focused on several networks smuggling migrants from Turkey through Bulgaria to Serbia and Western Europe. The main operators of networks active on this route are located in Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey. reads a statement released by Europol.
Organizers set up their own national networks responsible for transport and accommodation in their respective countries.
As explained by the authorities, smugglers used vehicles such as vans, campers and buses for transportation.
Meanwhile, prices for the entire smuggling service in large groups are between €2,000 and €3,000 per person.
On the other hand, if migrants are smuggled in small groups of five or six people, the payments can reach up to €10,000. Meanwhile, payments for the full trip will be made after the main Turkish organizer confirms that the migrants have entered the Bulgarian-Serbian border.
In addition, Bulgarian authorities have announced that their country has seen an increase in migrant smuggling activities along its southern border.
In August last year, an incident involving a bus carrying illegal immigrants in Bulgaria led to the death of two police officers on duty.
In 2022, a Bulgarian border police officer was also shot dead during a regular patrol along the green border with Turkey. These incidents indicate an increase in both smuggling activities and the violence of criminal networks.
In the same year, Europol increased its support to the Bulgarian authorities by appointing dedicated analysts. In addition, on the day of the action, 16 January, Europol sent an expert to Sofia to provide real-time analytical support and check operational information against Europol’s databases.
However, this week’s operation, coordinated by the Bulgarian public prosecutor, the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, as well as the National Police and Border Police, targeted criminal networks active on the Balkan route.