28 arrested for smuggling migrants via Bulgaria and Romania

Europol has supported the Romanian Border Police (Poliția Română de Frontera) in dismantling an organised crime group involved in migrant smuggling. The Bulgarian General Directorate Combating Organised Crime (Главна Дирекция Организирана Престъпност) and the German Federal Police in Waidhaus (Bundespolizeiinspektion Waidhaus) were also involved in the operation. During the action day, Germany deployed a prosecutor to Romania to advise on the collection of evidence, in view of their potential use in German judicial proceedings, while Bulgarian investigator and Europol analysis and two guest officers took also part in the activities in Romania.

The action day led to:

  • 29 locations searched in Bucharest, Arges district, Buzau, Constanta and Brasov
  • 28 individuals arrested
  • Diverse seizures

The Romanian Border Police initiated the investigation into this criminal network in 2022, following the arrests of several van drivers at the border with Bulgaria. The investigation uncovered a criminal network that was composed of several suspects, clustered in two groups depending on their tasks. One of the groups, composed mainly of Romanian nationals, was responsible for the transportation, with the other in charge of recruitment of migrants who could to be smuggled.

Smuggled in trucks and vans across the Balkan route

The criminal organisation smuggled irregular migrants from Türkiye to Germany via Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Czechia. The suspects smuggled the migrants via land across specific Border Crossing Points (BCPs) at the Bulgarian-Romanian border such as Ostrov BCP, Giurgiu BCP and Bechet BCP. They then held them in locations near the Romanian city of Timisoara for a day or two, before further transporting them to Germany.

The suspects smuggled the irregular migrants mostly in vans and trucks. This modus operandi, largely used by criminal networks active across the so-called Balkan route, has proven highly dangerous for the life and health of migrants. In several recent incidents, adults and children were found dead found death due to the lack of space and oxygen in the compartments used to conceal them during transportation.

Europol facilitated the exchange of information, and provided operational coordination and analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed an analyst to Romania to enable the real-time exchange of information and cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators in the field. Two Europol guest officers already deployed in the area also supported the Romanian authorities.