Joint raids on the Balkan route see migrant smugglers halted

Europol has supported a joint investigation between Germany, Romania and Serbia into an organised crime network smuggling migrants across the Balkan route. The operation, facilitated by Eurojust at the judicial level, as well as by the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC), involved also authorities from Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and Türkiye.

The action day led to:

  • 15 locations searched (4 in Germany and 11 in Romania) 
  • 4 individuals arrested (1 in Germany and 3 in Romania)
  • Seizures including 3 vehicles, mobile phones and electronics, documents and cash in various currencies

Up to EUR 10 000 to reach Germany from Türkiye

Authorities initiated the investigation after a number of interceptions of irregular migrants at parts of the German border with Austria, Czechia and Poland. The criminal network charged between EUR 4 000 and EUR 10 000 per person smuggled from Türkiye to Germany via the Balkan route. The smuggling between Romania and Germany cost between EUR 4 000 and EUR 5 000.

German and Romanian authorities investigated members of the criminal network since the end of 2022, linking them to the detection of more than 870 migrants during 93 smuggling incidents. In Romania, the local cell of the criminal network gathered the migrants in Timisoara before further transporting them towards Germany. This Romanian cell was involved in the renting and managing of hiding locations in the areas of Arad and Timisoara. There, they gathered the migrants in overcrowded accommodation to merge different groups before further transferring them to Germany. The suspects have put this set up in place in order to optimise the logistics and maximise the criminal profits. 

The members of the criminal group used forerunner cars driving ahead of the lorries with migrants, while communicating via mobile applications, to detect and avoid possible police checks. During this last leg of the smuggling route towards Germany, the migrants were placed in extremely dangerous conditions, facing a lack of ventilation and other threats to their safety. In some cases, the migrants would be forced to hide amongst cargo under such conditions for several consecutive days. 

Europol facilitated the exchange of information between participating authorities, 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. 

At the end of 2022, Eurojust set up a Joint Investigation Team between Germany, Romania and Serbia.