On 6 May 2015, Europol supported German Police in dismantling an organised crime group involved in smuggling people from Africa to the EU. As a result, three suspected key members of the criminal group were arrested (all male; one aged 22; two aged 26). Nine properties were also searched in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.
According to the investigation, the network facilitated the irregular immigration of individuals from Africa to southern Europe using different travel routes established by people smugglers with connections across the EU. After their arrival in Europe, the network organised train travel to Paris for the migrants. They were then transported in vans or mini-buses to Cologne, from where they often travelled on to Scandinavia by train.
This action day was an important new operational phase for the joint investigation team (JIT) Asmara, run by Cologne Police and the Cologne Federal Police. The JIT was formed in August 2014, with the main aim of combating a people smuggling network identified as operating in Europe and organising the facilitation of illegal immigration of nationals from Africa to the EU.
Europol has supported the long-running cross-border investigation and provided analytical support to the countries involved throughout. This included facilitating information exchange and analysis, and organising operational meetings at Europol, such as the last one on 10 March when investigators from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden participated. Based on Europol's analytical work, substantial international links have been identified in several EU Member States which may prompt further investigations.
The first action in this investigation took place in January 2015, when five targets were arrested and evidence was seized. At that time it became clear that a second organised criminal group was involved in the people smuggling. With the support of German Federal Criminal Police and Europol, the investigation continued and the structure of this second criminal group was uncovered.