European police strike illegal Kurdish migrant network
Venice police established that the network brought some 2,500 Iraqi Kurds to Europe via Turkey, with initial stops in Greece and Italy, from late 2006 through the end of last year.Rome -- Police in Italy and five other European countries Tuesday arrested at least 46 people in a crackdown on an illegal migrant network that has brought thousands of Iraqi Kurds into Europe.
Several hundred police carried out sweeps in 17 Italian cities, arresting 32 mainly Iraqi Kurds in "Operation Ticket to Ride," Alessandro Giuliano, a leading investigator of the Venice police, told a news conference in Rome.
At the same time, seven suspects were arrested in Germany, two in France, two in Switzerland, two in Belgium and one in Greece.
Venice police established that the network brought some 2,500 Iraqi Kurds to Europe via Turkey, with initial stops in Greece and Italy, from late 2006 through the end of last year.
The actual number could be more than twice as large, Giuliano said.
The investigation was prompted by the discovery in May 2006 of 36 Iraqi Kurds hidden in a truck in Venice, where they had arrived from Greece.
The journeys could take up to 10 months, with payments made at each stage using Western Union or other remittance companies for an average total of between 8,000 and 10,000 dollars (5,700 to 7,150 euros), Giuliano said.
The luckier migrants travelled by plane or car with false identity papers, while others were crammed into trucks or hidden underneath them, Giuliano said.
Many of the smugglers had legal residency permits, he added.
Police issued 70 arrest warrants all together, Giuliano said.
The sweeps, carried out with the support of Europol and Eurojust, also involved Britain and Sweden, but no arrests were made.