The network helped Moroccans obtain visas with false information, catch flights or ferries to Gibraltar, and then smuggled them into Spain.
Rabat – Spain and Gibraltar have broken up a network that helped Moroccans obtain short-term UK tourist visas with false documentation, arresting 47 for involvement in a criminal network and human trafficking.
On Sunday morning, January 12, Spain’s Ministry of the Interior announced that Spain had made 44 arrests in the case. Gibraltar made three arrests, the Gibraltar Chronicle reports.
In the scheme, Moroccans received British tourist visas to travel to Gibraltar. The network had agents in Morocco who helped the prospective migrants use false information to get the visas.
After the Moroccan migrants caught a flight or ferry to Gibraltar, the group smuggled them into Spain across the land border in cars with tinted windows at night, when Gibraltar-Spain border controls are more lax. The visas the migrants used did not allow access to the Schengen Area, which includes Spain.
The network charged Moroccan migrants €7,000 to €8,000 for the irregular immigration service. Migrants had to pay extra, up to €700 more, if they wanted accommodation in Gibraltar or Spain or help with their onward journey from the Gibraltar and Spain-based side of the network.
Once in Spain, the migrants purchased bus tickets to other cities in Europe.
Authorities estimate that the network trafficked 130 irregular migrants. At the same time, efforts to track the network and surveil its activities involved over 200 Spanish police officers and “hundreds of manpower hours over nearly a year,” as the Chronicle noted.
Royal Gibraltar Police first became suspicious of the presence of a migration network in November 2018 when the territory began to record increased numbers of Moroccans with tourist visas visiting the peninsula, according to Euro Weekly News.
Spanish and Gibraltar police worked together to surveil the network and make the arrests.
Police raided two homes, one in Gibraltar and one across the border in Spain, and seized €19,000, five cars, and smartphones.
Authorities estimate the network’s Moroccan side made profits of over €1 million, while the Spanish-Gibraltar side made less than €100,000.