AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch prosecutors said on Friday they had arrested two Syrians suspected of operating a large people-smuggling ring that brought hundreds of Syrian refugees into Europe.
Following a year-long investigation, Dutch authorities arrested a 35-year-old Syrian man living in the southern city of Eindhoven as well as his 26-year-old cousin.
Europol, Europe’s police agency, is tracking as many as 30,000 suspected people smugglers who are taking advantage of large flows into the continent of refugees escaping conflict in the Middle East and Africa.
The gang first approached refugees in Turkey, offering boat trips to Greece and Italy for 7,000 euros ($8,003.80), Friday’s statement said. The road journey to other European countries, including Denmark, Sweden and Germany, cost up to 1,500 euros extra.
The smugglers then provided cars and drivers for refugees passing through Greece, Austria and Hungary. Transit locations were run out of Milan, Athens, Vienna and Budapest.
“In cooperation with others, he allegedly smuggled large numbers of Syrians staying in Italy to the Netherlands and other Western European countries,” the statement said.
Payments, which were made by clients via money transfer, were channeled via an “underground banker” to the Netherlands, prosecutors said.
The Dutch investigation was assisted by authorities in Germany, Italy, Austria and Hungary and coordinated by Europol.
Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Mark Heinrich