THE HAGUE - Authorities in Belgium and Greece have dismantled a network that was smuggling irregular migrants via Belgian airports to other European countries, including Norway. Mainly Iraqi migrants travelled from Greece to Charleroi and Brussels on falsified or stolen documents, paying at least between EUR 5 000 and EUR 6 000 per person. During an action day, with the active assistance of Eurojust and Europol, 11 people were arrested and 16 places searched, including two travel agencies in Athens.
Investigations in Belgium into the smuggling network started in April 2022, after the interception at Brussels airport of a facilitator accompanying three irregular migrants. These investigations uncovered an organised crime group (OCG), which facilitated the travel of small groups of two to four irregular migrants from Greece to Belgium. The migrants had previously travelled to Greece through irregular channels.
The journeys between Greek and Belgian airports were made by using falsified, stolen or ‘look-alike’ identity documents. During their journey, the migrants were accompanied by members of the OCG. Upon arrival in Belgium, they were provided with other falsified, stolen or ‘look-alike’ documents for their onward journey by plane or car to other European countries, including Norway.
Eurojust supported the investigations by setting up and financing a joint investigation team between the Belgian and Greek authorities. The Agency also organised two dedicated coordination meetings and set up an online coordination centre on the action day.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed an analyst to Greece to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real time to provide leads to investigators in the field.
The operations on the ground were carried out by the following authorities:
·Belgium: Public Prosecutor’s Office of Halle-Vilvoorde; Investigative Judge Court of 1st Instance Brussels; Federal Judicial Police Halle-Vilvoorde
·Greece: Investigative Judge of Court of 1st Instance of Athens; Attica Aliens Division / Illegal Immigration Enforcement