Tuesday

19th Mar 2019

Police raid gangs who sold forged ID papers to migrants

  • An EU passport check at the Greek-Turkish border. (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Police in Greece and the Czech Republic have arrested 19 people suspected of forging travel documents on a ”large scale”, Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, said on Tuesday.

Sixteen people of Bangladeshi and Sudanese origin were detained in Athens on 25 May.

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They were part of a network that sent fake papers across the world via courier services. They dispatched 557 such parcels over the course of 2015.

The network provided EU passports, ID cards and Schengen visas. The price of a fake document ranged from €100 to €3,000, Europol said, depending on the quality, type and country of issue.

They were sold to people who used them to enter the EU or legalise their stay in the EU bloc.

The Czech group, where three people were arrested on 10 May, bought stolen or found identity documents and sent them to Greece for counterfeiting.

Europol said a tip-off from the Czech authorities allowed them to identify the two groups in Greece, the agency revealed.

Findings made in the course of the investigation have put police on the track of similar gangs in Austria, Italy and Spain, Europol announced.

"In the last two years we have seen criminal gangs increasingly investing more in the production of fake documents to support a growing criminal market associated with the migrant crisis," Europol director Rob Wainwright said.

Europol reported in May that bringing people illegally into the EU had turned into a lucrative business in the wake of the global refugee crisis.

Ninety percent of migrants to the EU rely on criminal networks, the agency said. It estimated human smuggling was worth €5 billion a year.

Human smuggling to EU worth €5bn a year

Up to 40,000 suspects involved in "multinational business", Europol and Interpol said. Migrants "increasingly" targeted for labour and sexual exploitation.

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Around 67 percent of all registered victims of human trafficking in the EU are exploited for sex, 21 percent for labour, and the remaining 12 percent for things like forced begging or organ removal.

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