Europol's European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) supported a Hungarian – Slovakian Joint Investigation Team (JIT) focused on dismantling an organised migrant smuggling network operating from Slovakia. The criminal group recruited migrants from asylum reception centres in Hungary and then smuggled them into Germany by car.
A Europol Mobile Investigation Team (EMIST) was deployed to Slovakia during a joint action day, where it supported a series of operations and house searches. The action led to the arrest of 7 suspects and the seizure of electronic and communication devices. Crucial data was extracted from the mobile phones seized and was cross-matched against Europol's databases which has allowed for further identification of new international links.
The migrant smuggling group was composed of Afghan, Hungarian and Slovakian nationals. The members had precise roles within the organisation: The Afghan nationals were involved mostly in the recruitment phase (recruiters), while most of the drivers were from Slovakia (facilitators). The recruiters were permanently in contact with the facilitators. When a group of migrants was ready for the journey, the drivers would pick them up in Budapest (the main point of departure) and would transport them to the destination.
One of the key facilitators was extradited to Hungary on a European Arrest Warrant where he will face prosecution for migrant smuggling. A total of 3 criminal investigations, involving more than 15 suspects, are currently conducted by the Hungarian and Slovakian law enforcement agencies. Europol's EMSC will continue to support the JIT to further explore all possible avenues for cooperation.
Foreign-based mobile criminal groups appear increasingly at the EU's external borders along the main migration channels and around refugee camps to offer their services to those who are stranded. In this specific case, the mixed group of Slovakian, Hungarian and Afghan perpetrators facilitated the illegal journey of asylum seekers to the EU for financial gain.
As most of the criminal activities associated with migrant smuggling are being conducted across borders, enhanced international co-operation is key. Europol services