NATIONAL Police in collaboration with Europol have uncovered a criminal organisation dedicated to human trafficking and responsible for abducting children from Spanish protection centres and taking them to France and Belgium.
Almeria port was used as the main departure point for transferring illegal immigrants on Moroccan, Spanish and French company buses either to Strasbourg or Brussels. The gang also used the buses to traffic hashish and hunting species.
Police reported the organisation had a network of specialised captors according to nationality, and including Moroccans, Algerians, Malians and Syrians. They approached immigrants making it to the Spanish coast on small boats or by other means, offering to take them to France or Belgium from Almeria, and charging them up to three times more than regular passengers.
The specialist Mali group snatched unaccompanied young Malians from a protection centre in Almeria, using violence against social workers to get them out.
The buses would make numerous stops en route north in Murcia, Alicante, Barcelona and Tarragona picking up more passengers at so called “black ticket offices” at hotels and phone booth outlets known to immigrants. The business even managed to get professional status at Madrid, Barcelona and Murcia bus stations.
When the buses got close to France, cars were sent on ahead to check for police controls or the vehicles were taken through villages to try and avoid detection. At La Junquera on the border all irregular passengers were made to get off the buses and go by taxi to the nearest service station in France, where they got back on the bus.
The operation resulted in 29 arrests: 11 in Almeria, five in Murcia, three in Alicante, three in Barcelona, two in Valencia, one in Tarragona, one in Bilbao, and another three in France. Searches of 13 different homes and premises in Spain and one in France also resulted in the seizure of €33,000, more than 200 kilos of hash and all sorts of documentation.
Investigations into the network’s activities in Spain were first launched after French police informed Spanish law enforcement they had arrested a Spanish national for driving a bus on which there were 22 illegal immigrants, six of them under-age youngsters of different African nationalities.