Ring exploited deaf migrants

Police appear to be have uncovered the local arm of a Europe-wide criminal gang that smuggles deaf immigrants into Greece and forces them to work as street vendors under the threat of violence, authorities said yesterday. Police arrested a deaf Ukrainian couple on the island of Corfu who were thought to be responsible for bringing tens of deaf people into Greece to peddle goods at outdoor cafes and restaurants on the country’s islands in summer. The couple, police said, would give the illegal immigrants false documentation and force them to work, threatening them and their families with bodily harm if they failed to do so. Each month, the vendors would pay the couple 400 to 500 euros, of which two-thirds would be handed over to a fellow gang member and the head of the operation, believed to be based in the Ukranian capital, Kiev. The network is thought to have spread into Italy and Spain, with the gang using Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states as a source of deaf street vendors. Police seized 7,500 euros and forged documents from the Ukranian couple’s apartment yesterday.