BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanian and German officials raided homes and hotels in both countries Wednesday to smash an illegal migrant trafficking ring they said was one of the biggest of its kind in Europe.
Romanian prosecutors from the organized crime and terrorism agency said police conducted 12 searches in western Romania, including in the city of Timisoara, which has become a hub for migrants after Hungary tightened border controls with Serbia.
A statement said the group located and guided migrants and organized their accommodation and transport through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Austria and Germany aided by guides of Arab origin. They said migrants paid between 4,000 to 5,000 euros ($4,960-$6,200).
Local news website Pressalert.ro quoted local authorities saying the group had trafficked 2,000 migrants through Timisoara. The report said traffickers and migrants used applications such as WhatsApp or Viber, and turned off their mobile phones when they were crossing the border so that their locations were not saved on their devices.
German judicial authorities and Europol helped the probe which allegedly involved suspects who “were part of a vast European network of migrants.”
Prosecutors said migrants entered Romania illegally from Serbia and were later taken to Hungary and then Germany.
Romania’s organized crime chief prosecutor, Daniel Horodniceanu, said the raids were part of a larger Europol investigation in several European countries, including Britain.