THE HAGUE — Police raids across Greece smashed an international people-trafficking ring that made $8 million in profit from smuggling Syrian migrants into Europe, and 16 suspects were arrested, officials said on Tuesday.
Rob Wainwright, chief of the European police organization Europol, said Greek authorities backed by the Netherlands-based Europol dismantled the gang in a two-day sweep last week, the first by a new Europol task force dealing with maritime crime.
He said police staged 20 raids across Greece, arresting 16 suspects — including Syrian, Iraqi, Egyptian and Romanian nationals — and seizing 280 passports, dozens of mobile phones, computers, vehicles and 64,000 euros ($68,000) in cash.
The gang had smuggled 350 people, mostly Syrians, by boat to the Greek islands of Kos and Rhodes, charging as much as 9,000 euros ($9,500) per person, Europol said.
In 2014, more than 220,000 migrants entered Europe, compared to 60,000 a year earlier, and more than 4,000 have died since 2013 attempting the sea crossing, Wainwright said at a media briefing in The Hague.