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Balkan route: Corona increases the greed of smugglers for profit

Germany Balkan Route

Corona increases the smugglers’ greed for profit

Martin Lutz

In October 2020, the federal police freed eight people from a train container In October 2020, the federal police freed eight people from a train container

In October 2020, the federal police freed eight people from a train container

Source: Federal Police Passau

Gangs quickly adjusted to the border controls during the Corona crisis. The federal police registered a sharp increase in the number of cases in which criminals earn money by transporting migrants in 2020.

EThe police rarely see such a spectacular case. Hungary, near the town of Vitnyéd, around 20 kilometers from the Austrian border: when the police checked a vehicle with a Hungarian license plate there in October 2020, the driver jumped out of the van and ran away with a gun and hand grenade.

Police officers chase the 52-year-old German and fire a warning shot. But he does not comply with the request to stop. Rather, he points the gun at himself and shoots himself in the head. Then he collapses, causing the hand grenade he has armed to explode.

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The case is contained in the annual report 2020 on “smuggling crime” of the Federal Police, which is stamped confidential and is available to WELT AM SONNTAG. The officers finally discover five illegal immigrants in the car. According to the investigation, the driver wanted to continue to Germany.

This smuggling crime was registered much more frequently during the Corona crisis. In Germany, 222 cases with 1267 migrants were counted, most of whom were smuggled over the Balkan route by truck. This is almost twice as many as in 2019. At that time there were 136 cases with a total of 663 people. For the whole of Europe, the annual report shows an even greater increase than for the Federal Republic.

Source: Infographic Die Welt

Federal Police President Dieter Romann told this newspaper on request: “The increase shows that the smugglers reacted quickly to the border controls. Second, that human lives are irrelevant and that it’s all about money. ”Romann went on to explain:“ People who are transported on trucks and are thus exposed to the outside temperatures almost unprotected, prove the inhuman greed of the smugglers for profit. ”The federal police want to react now. According to Romann, she will continue to expand cooperation with the Western Balkans and Turkey, as well as Europol and Frontex.

Data from 16 relevant EU countries and also from eight cooperation partners – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Great Britain, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Switzerland – are included in the statistics of the “Operative Action RISK”. In addition to the federal police, Europol and the border protection agency Frontex are also involved. However, the numbers only represent a section of the crime rate because the so-called dark field is not recorded.

Horst Seehofer (r, CSU), Federal Minister of the Interior, Home and Building, and Federal Police President Dieter Romann

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (r., CSU) and Federal Police President Dieter Romann

Source: dpa

The Federal Police attributes the increase primarily to the Europe-wide lockdown measures. This would have led to a “traffic jam”, especially in the Balkans. The reintroduced border controls made it difficult to travel by train, long-distance bus, taxi, rental and rental cars. That is why the people smugglers switched to goods traffic with trucks – this was still taking place to a certain extent, according to the investigators.

“The main target country is still Germany,” says the 116-page report. The routes used by the smuggler mafia are often cross-border motorways such as the A3, which runs from the Austrian border near Schärding to Elten in North Rhine-Westphalia. In addition, the A4 (Polish border from Görlitz to Aachen) and the A17 (Czech border to Dresden) are popular with criminals.

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Smuggling often begins in Turkey. From there, criminals take the migrants in trucks across the Balkans to Central and Eastern Europe. For the journey from Turkey to Germany, the average wage for smugglers is 5,000 euros. From Serbia, a good 4000 euros are usually due, from Romania it is 500 to 3000 euros.

How dangerous it is to confide in the smuggling mafia is shown by a case that was reported around the world. In 2019, the police discovered a truck east of London in which 39 Vietnamese had suffocated in agony. The victims had each paid £ 13,000 for a promised “VIP trip”. Earlier this year, four members of the smuggling gang behind the crime were sentenced to between 13 and 27 years in prison for manslaughter and people smuggling.

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