On 1 February, six EU Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary and Romania) harmonised their law enforcement interventions to disrupt ongoing migrant smuggling activities. During the joint action day, which aimed to dismantle organised crime groups smuggling migrants into the EU and within the Schengen area, the following actions were carried out:
- Three premises searched in Hungary. One was a hotel in Budapest, used as a major safe house for irregular migrants. Several organised crime groups used this legal business to accommodate smuggled asylum seekers during their transit. Several people smuggling incidents along the Western Balkan route could be linked to this safe house. Two experts from Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre supported Hungarian police on the spot.
- During the raids in Hungary several mobile phones, SIM cards, navigation devices, international train tickets, boarding passes, EUR 4000 in cash, and a car were seized.
- Two people were arrested in Hungary. Notes and documents found may lead to further arrests. The operation and interrogations are ongoing.
- In Romania, law enforcement performed 18 house searches in Bucharest, and 5 searches in the west of the country, and 13 people were arrested.
- Germany’s Federal Police carried out 9 house searches in 4 German federal states. One person was arrested.
- Austrian Police arrested one person and encountered 58 migrants.
- Croatian officials carried out two hotel raids in Zagreb.
After the closure of the Western Balkan route last year, there is now an increased risk of stranded migrants being hidden in illegal safe houses until they can be moved further on by organised crime groups. Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre plays a decisive role in proactively supporting EU Member States to target and dismantle organised crime networks involved in migrant smuggling.