Europol, working along with the National Police of Greece and Italy, dismantled a large group that was illegally smuggling migrants into the two countries, it was announced on Thursday.
Europol officers from the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation assisted their colleagues from Greek and Italian Police departments in an operation conducted in both nations.
”Law enforcement authorities from Greece and Italy, supported by Europol and Eurojust, have dismantled a large organized crime group smuggling migrants by leisure boats/pleasure craft via the Adriatic Sea,” the Europol statement says.
The police authorities conducted a total of thirteen house searches and arrested eight individuals of Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern origin.
All are suspected to be members of the criminal network. Investigations are still ongoing in cities both in Italy and in Greece.
The smuggling group, which has been active since 2018, is suspected of smuggling approximately 150 migrants from western Greece via the strait of Corfu to locations on the southern Italian coast between Otranto and Lecce.
The migrants paid up to €6,000 apiece to travel approximately twelve hours in leisure boats sometimes as small as ten meters (30 feet) long.
Children under 13 years of age were also among the migrants smuggled in this way by the criminal group.
Europol noted that it supported the national police authorities by exchanging officers between Italy and Greece and by deploying experts to support their field activities by a real-time cross-checking of operational information.