Help Interpol to nab human traffickers

Ten people sought for being members of an organised crime group, for smuggling or for trafficking are shown on this handout picture released by Interpol.
Ten people sought for being members of an organised crime group, for smuggling or for trafficking are shown on this handout picture released by Interpol.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LYON • Interpol has called for public help to track down scores of human traffickers wanted around the world who are accused of "profiting from the desperation" of migrants determined to reach Europe.

"People smuggling is a global issue, which is why international cooperation through operations such as Hydra is essential," director of operational support Michael O'Connell said in a statement on Thursday.

The operation, known as Infra Hydra, involves 44 countries as well as Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency.

Targeting 180 fugitives sought by 31 countries, the operation has made 26 arrests so far and located 31 other suspects.

The international police organisation based in Lyon, France, identified 10 most-wanted suspects who are "especially difficult to locate", an Interpol spokesman said.

"There is a lot of work to be done behind the scenes. We are hoping for good results," she said.

Among the key suspects are a Romanian woman whose operatives smuggled people into Austria, charging them as much as €3,000 (S$4,510), and the Azerbaijani former head of passenger screening at Baku airport accused of providing counterfeit airline tickets.

All are "internationally wanted fugitives", Interpol said.

The organisation said that it had already nabbed a Moroccan national who is suspected of providing false Belgian identity papers to three Syrian refugees, charging them about €12,000 each.

Another is a Serb suspected of belonging to a trafficking ring that smuggled 25 migrants from Serbia to Hungary.

An Albanian crime group that smuggled refugees between France and Britain, with services costing more than €14,000 a person, had also been located, and many of its members had been arrested.

"The criminal networks involved have no regard for the safety or well-being of the people using their illegal services," Mr O'Connell said. "They are just another commodity to trade, as we have seen with tragic results around the world.

"Operation Hydra is aimed at dismantling these networks, to stop them from profiting from the desperation of people and bringing those responsible to justice, and we would encourae anyone with information to come forward."

More than 800,000 migrants fleeing war, persecution and hardship in the Middle East and Asia landed on the Greek islands from Turkey last year. Most continued on to northern Europe.

Illegal immigration networks raked in more than €4 billion last year, according to EU border agency Frontex.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Help Interpol to nab human traffickers'. Print Edition | Subscribe