Illegals forced to work on plantations by smugglers: police

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Vietnamese illegal immigrants pay up to 10,000 euros to be smuggled into Europe, Hungarian police said Friday, a few days after a major raid on a Vietnamese human trafficking ring led to 31 arrests.

"One illegal immigrant needs to pay 9,000 to 10,000 euros (11,000 to 12,300 dollars) on the way to Europe," Zoltan Boross of the Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation told a joint press conference with European counterparts.

"And if they do not have enough money, then they have to go work on a cannabis plantation for repayment," he added.

In a major international operation on Tuesday, Hungarian, German, French and British police, as well as Europol officers, arrested 31 people for facilitating illegal immigration.

Authorities also searched 42 houses and arrested 66 illegal immigrants from Vietnam, the police said.

In Hungary, 12 people were arrested for alleged human trafficking.

"Since March 2009 these individuals operated in a very well tuned manner for a long period of time with the intent of financial gain," said Boross.

The smugglers, themselves Vietnamese, transported their clients to Europe via Moscow, Rome or Istanbul, and housed them in their own hotels in Budapest from where they relocated them to marijuana plantations in other parts of Europe, he added.

"These immigrants are seriously exploited through cannabis production, extortion and crime, and often when caught, they don't even know where they are," Andre Baker, of the British Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), added.

"Currently the UK is the favourite destination for illegal immigrants from Vietnam smuggled through other European states," he said.

"This is why we asked for the support of Europol and EU states to stop the exploitation of illegal immigrants."

© 2010 AFP

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