Germany, Polish police swoop on people-smuggling ring

2018-01-17 20:14
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Berlin - German and Polish police carried out raids on both sides of the border on Wednesday against an alleged Polish-Syrian people-smuggling ring as part of a broader crackdown.

German federal police said in a statement that they were acting on orders from the Berlin prosecutor's office, which has opened a probe "against members of a Polish-Syrian family association on suspicion of running organised commercial smuggling of foreigners".

Tourist visas

It said two people were detained on existing arrest warrants during the raids carried out by about 170 officers against sites in Germany and Poland.

The suspects are believed to be primarily Polish citizens of Syrian origin.

"The suspects are accused of smuggling in Syrian citizens from the Gulf states via Poland into Germany" using Polish tourist visas obtained under false pretences, German police said.

The Syrians, who were charged around €8 000 per person, arrived in Poland by air and were taken over land to Germany where they filed asylum applications.

Police believe the smuggling ring took in a total of more than 300 000.

Wednesday's raids were focused on Berlin, where the arrests were made, but also targeted six other German states as well as sites in Poland.

German police said the raids were part of wider concerted action organised illegal migration.

Migrant crisis

"People-smugglers profit handsomely from asylum seekers," they said.

Germany announced Tuesday that the number of new asylum seekers in Germany fell sharply last year to 186 000, easing some of the political pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel as debate rages on whether to impose a cap on migration.

Refugees from war-torn Syria made up the largest group with more than 47 000 arrivals.

The figures are a far cry from the record total 890 000 arrivals registered in 2015 after Merkel opened the country's borders to those fleeing conflict at the height of Europe's migrant crisis - a decision that polarised the country.

Merkel has since placed an emphasis on border security as part of a tighter migration policy.

Read more on:    germany  |  poland

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