Sixteen people have been arrested in connection with an international human-trafficking ring that allegedly earned 8 million euros from smuggling Syrian migrants from Turkey into Greece, European police organization Europol announced Tuesday in The Hague.
The arrests followed 20 raids across Greece conducted by local police in association with Europol. According to the latter, the ring, which allegedly included Syrians, Egyptians and Romanians, allegedly smuggled 350 migrants, mostly Syrians, from Turkey to the Greek islands of Kos and Rhodes by boat, at a charge of 9,000 euros per head.
The arrests were announced during the unveiling of the Joint Operational Team (JOT) Mare, a unit comprising experts from 13 European countries fighting irregular migration and supported by Europol.
Speaking in The Hague, Europol chief Rob Wainwright noted that “events in the Mediterranean Sea emphasize the need for a coordinated approach.” Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, said the operation was an example of how the Commission, the agencies and the member states “can, together, do more and better to counter migrant smuggling.” According to Avramopoulos, over 220,000 migrants entered Europe in 2014, compared to 60,000 in 2013, with 3,000 dying during the crossover last year. So far, 1,000 people have died this year, he said.