Eleven members of a Bangladeshi criminal network have been arrested by the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) with Europol’s support. Operation Manglar revealed that the criminal group had charged nearly 350 migrants between €14 000 and €20 000 each to be smuggled into Spain.
The action day took place in Barcelona, Spain, where law enforcement officers searched three houses and five buildings. Over 200 forged documents and around €18 000 were seized.
A trip spanning three continents
The route used by the criminals took the migrants across three different continents and their smuggling operation was split into different phases.
The journey started when migrants travelled from Bangladesh to New Delhi, India, to apply for an Algerian visa. Once back in Bangladesh, they flew to Algeria. Upon arrival in North Africa, the smugglers housed the migrants in properties owned by the criminal organisation until they were able to cross the Algerian-Moroccan border through the mountains. Once in Morocco, the migrants were housed in squalid conditions and the traffickers confiscated their passports, essentially preventing the migrants from travelling any further.
The migrants waited for weeks until they could illegally cross the Mediterranean Sea on pateras (small wooden boats) and reach Spain. To avoid being deported back to Bangladesh, the migrants entered the country with no identity documents. In Spain, the criminal network gave them fake documentation and arranged different services for the migrants, such as applying for residence permits and sham marriages to legitimise their stay in Spain.
Europol supported the operation with a dedicated in-house analyst. Additionally, an EU Mobile Analysis Team (EMAST) was deployed on the action day in Barcelona with a mobile office and providing analytical and forensic support. Europol worked closely with Frontex, which provided intelligence and an overview of the modus operandi used by criminal groups to smuggle migrants from Asia (in particular from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) via Morocco to Spain by boat.