Police in Spain have broken up a gang said to be responsible for smuggling at least 6,000 Ukrainians into Britain.
The gang trafficked the migrants – who paid €2,500 each – to the UK by flying them into the Republic of Ireland using false travel documents before moving them by ferry to British soil, police allege.
It is thought the gang made at least €15 million before Spanish police disrupted its activity after a two-year operation. The investigation resulted in the arrest of four of the organisation’s leaders and 111 migrants. Those held will face charges of facilitating illegal immigration and forgery.
A statement released by Spain’s National Police said: “The organisation provided the immigrants with visas which enabled them to enter the Schengen area through countries bordering theirs, mainly Poland.
“Once they were inside the Schengen Area they were given fake documents, normally Polish ID cards and, to a lesser extent, passports from Baltic countries they could travel to without any problems.
“With those documents they were sent on to other countries like Spain, France and Belgium in which members of the organisation were waiting for them and helped them until they reached their final destination.
“They arranged flights, mainly to Dublin, where they were met by other members of the organisation who transferred them by ferry to the UK.”
Mass immigration into Europe is shifting many of the 28-nation bloc’s member states to the right, as a wave as authoritarian populism sweeps the continent. With far-right parties expected to do well in elections in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Serbia next year, the migrant crisis looks likely to continue a trend that has seen the UK vote to leave the EU, and the American people elect Donald Trump last week.
According to data from the Pew Research Center, a record 1.3 million refugees sought asylum in Europe in 2015, many of whom would have been trafficked to the region by people smugglers. In 2014, nearly 600,000 asylum applications were filed in the EU, Pew said.
Earlier this month, a report from the Unravelling the Mediterranean Migration Crisis (MEDMIG) project revealed that the majority of migrants use a trafficker for at least part of their journey into Europe.
Separate Pew research from the spring found EU voters have been far from satisfied when it comes to the way in which their governments have dealt with the migrant crisis. In Germany, two-thirds of the electorate disapproved of the approach taken by the EU towards the influx of refugees. In both the UK and France, which have taken in comparatively few migrants compared to countries further south, 70% of both electorates disapproved of EU immigration policy.