Slovenian police have arrested 13 people suspected of being responsible for the smuggling of at least 212 migrants.

The action day, following a months-long international investigation, was carried out in cooperation with law enforcement authorities from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, and Romania, and coordinated by Europol.

Migrants paid enormous sums to the smugglers to enter the EU clandestinely and move on to further destinations within its borders. During the action day, law enforcement found upgraded weapons with thousands of rounds of ammunition, drugs, and cash with the suspects from Slovenia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The criminals advertised their illicit activities on various social media platforms to lure as many migrants as possible to be smuggled across the borders. To that end, videos of successful transports were published. Migrants would be moved along two main routes, either from Croatia via Slovenia to Italy, or from Serbia via Hungary to Austria.

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The operation resulted in:

  • 13 suspects arrested (Slovenian, Serbian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian)
  • at least 212 migrants smuggled in at least 16 separate incidents
  • seizures include: weapons (an automatic rifle, a semi-automatic pistol, silencers, a hunting rifle with an optical sight fitted and over 2 300 pieces of different types of ammunition), various illegal drugs, illegal doping substances, electronic devices and cash 

Over 3 million in illegal profits

Migrants using the criminals’ services had to pay exorbitant prices to cross into the European Union clandestinely. An illegal trip from Serbia to Austria would require a payment of around EUR 5 000 per person. The entire journey from the country of origin to the EU would cost between EUR 15 000 to 20 000, thus making an enormous profit for the smugglers. In total, investigators believe the criminals obtained at least EUR 100 000 for the transports from Serbia to Austria and over EUR 3 180 000 in total.

The migrants usually entered Hungary through the Serbian-Hungarian green border on foot with the help of guides. The suspects then picked them up in vehicles. Investigations show that up to 37 people may have been transported in the same vehicle, which exposed them to extreme risks to their health and lives. The migrants were then taken across Hungary and dropped off close to the Austrian border. After crossing the border into Austria on foot, they would surrender to the police and apply for asylum.