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Police crack people-smuggling group

THE POLICE have announced that on November 25 they detained 24 members of an international group of illegal cross-border guides, including 11 Slovaks.

THE POLICE have announced that on November 25 they detained 24 members of an international group of illegal cross-border guides, including 11 Slovaks.

According to the police, the group participated in smuggling more than 300 people from Asian countries, thus earning at least Sk7.4 million (€245,635). The news was announced by the head of the Office of Border and Alien Police, Tibor Mako, the ČTK newswire reported.

The police said that one part of the alleged human-smuggling group operated on the Slovak-Ukrainian border, which forms one part of the outer border of the Schengen passport–free zone. The rest of the detained people were involved in smuggling illegal refugees from refugee camps within Slovakia.

“Migrants who were detained on the border and did not ask for asylum were returned to Ukraine,” Mako said. Most of the refugees, however, asked for asylum and, according to Mako, ended up in refugee camps in Slovakia. “From there, this group picked them up,” Mako added. The illegal refugees just passed through Slovakia, he said, their destination being more developed countries like France, Germany, or Italy.

The detained face charges of smuggling people, and the possibility of long prison sentences if found guilty. Five people were also accused of laundering income from criminal activities.

More than two hundred policemen have worked on the case since summer 2006.

The operation against human smugglers took place in Bratislava, Trenčín, Košice, and Prešov Regions.

“At 6:00, we surprised most of the people from this organised group, who were asleep, at their places of residence,” Mako said, describing the police operation.

During house searches, police said they seized, among other things, foreign cash with a value of Sk800,000 (€26,555).

Slovakia reported fewer illegal migrants this year. Slovak borders were illegally crossed by 935 people between January and October 2008, according to the statistics, 2,091 less than in the same period in 2007.

Most of the illegal migrants in 2008 came – as in 2007 - from Moldova, followed by Georgia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Russia. Their numbers all decreased, with the exception of Georgians and Afghans. The number of people recorded as staying illegally on Slovak territory also decreased.

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