The Canary Islands are becoming an increasingly popular destination for migrant smugglers.
Rabat – Police in Tan-Tan, southern Morocco, arrested on Friday seven individuals suspected of organizing irregular immigration and human trafficking. Morocco’s General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST) provided information to local police to enable the arrest.
The General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) released a statement on Friday announcing the successful operation. The DGST was already aware of the suspects’ involvement in organizing irregular migration through human trafficking and collaborated with local police to ensure the suspects came to justice.
Morocco’s security services suspect the seven people involved in the operation of having close links to a criminal network that specializes in human trafficking and facilitating illegal migration.
The group planned to facilitate irregular migration by using boats to transport migrants to the Spanish Canary Islands. The arrests took place through separate operations in Tan-Tan and on the coastline near El Ouatia.
Police also arrested one would-be irregular migrant originating from Sub-Saharan Africa.
At the crime scene police confiscated three automobiles and an inflatable boat with an outboard motor, according to the DGSN press release. The suspects had prepared two life jackets and four barrels containing 80 liters of fuel for the planned journey to the Canary Islands.
Morocco’s police promptly took the seven human trafficking suspects into custody.
The local public prosecutor’s office will now commence an investigation and prepare the details of the case. The prosecutor will determine any international ramifications of the criminal enterprise after a preliminary investigation.
The Canary Islands, situated roughly 100 kilometers off the coast of Morocco, have become an increasingly popular route for human trafficking groups. While Morocco’s DGSN, DGST, and local police have exerted great efforts in combating the issue, boats carrying a total of over 700 migrants arrived on the Spanish isles in January alone.
Restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and increased Moroccan policing have made irregular migration through human trafficking more diffcult in the strait between Tarifa and Tangier. Instead criminal gangs have opted for the Canary Islands as an alternative as the islands are part of Europe, where immigrants often intend to claim asylum.
Morocco and Spain are working together to prevent the islands from becoming a popular destination for human traffickers. Between 2006 and 2008 the volcanic archipelago witnessed 31,678 irregular migrants arrive on its shorelines. Over a decade later numbers are again increasing with 19,035 arrivals between January 1 and August 29.