Five arrested in Europe of migrant smuggling from Turkey
Belgian and Italian authorities arrested five people for smuggling migrants from Turkey via two private jets.
Three were detained in Italy and two in Belgium in home raids, as part of the joint operation. The aircraft also seized in Belgian Kortrijk airport, Aris Nalci, a journalist based in Belgium reported.
The jets were carrying migrants, mainly Iraqis and Iranians of Kurdish origin, Nalci said citing sources such as Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation and Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation.
The migrants were holding fake passports of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a Caribbean state, he said.
Turkey is one of the main transition locations for migrants seeking to illegally reach European countries. Turkey hosts around four million refugees, most of them Syrians. Large numbers of Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis also ended up in Turkey while trying to reach Europe.
The operation was carried out as a result of an investigation conducted with the cooperation of Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and the support of the United States, Eurojust and Europol since last year, Eurojust said.
The two jets were being tracked on suspicion of human trafficking since July 2021, according to Nalci.
The five suspects caught during raids on seven different houses, were holding Tunisian, Italian and Egyptian passports, Nalci said.
Eurojust said 80,000 Euros in cash and electronic equipment to forge ID documents were seized in the jets.
The authorities confiscated 173,000 Euros from a bank account of a person linked to smugglers in Italy, Nalci said.
The migrants each paid between 20,000 and 50,000 Euros to the smugglers for a spot on the aircraft, according to Eurojust.
Belgium announced last year that private jet flights from small airports in the country had tripled. Kortrijk airport were among them, Nalci said.