Europol has supported an international investigation led by France and Portugal, called 'Operation Bouquet', aimed to dismantle an international criminal network involved in facilitating irregular migration within the EU. The operation has led to the arrest of 69 individuals, nine of whom are key figures of the criminal network.
The smugglers were being investigated for providing transport for irregular migrants (of Hindustani origin) between Lisbon, Paris and the Belgian border, using their own vehicles and travelling along the main motorways to avoid detection. In Portugal, law enforcement authorities also investigated marriages of convenience between migrants and Portuguese women.
On the night of 26 September 2015, the French Brigade Mobile de Recherche (BMR) from Hendaye organised an operation on the toll barrier of Biarritz La Négresse. As a result, five vehicles belonging to the crime group and transporting irregular migrants were intercepted. Six smugglers were arrested, and 30 migrants (from Hindustan) apprehended.
In addition, the BMR searched two of the main suspects' houses. Both individuals were found and arrested. Moreover, 30 irregular migrants were discovered inside one of the houses.
On 1 October 2015, the Portuguese law enforcement agency Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteras (SEF) conducted an operation which resulted in the arrest of one facilitator from the same criminal group.
Europol has supported Operation Bouquet since its initiation in December 2013, by providing the investigative teams with several relevant analytical products and hosting operational meetings in its headquarters in The Hague.
Furthermore, Europol assisted the national law enforcement authorities during the actions, by deploying an expert and a mobile office on the spot. Additional judicial support was delivered by Eurojust.