International people-smuggling operation through Latvia disrupted

The Finnish Border Guard said on May 14 it had disrupted a large-scale people smuggling operation in which Finland was being used as a transit country for migrants from Belarus to Germany. More than 130 people were smuggled to Germany in this way last year.

According to the Finnish Border Guard, the suspected smugglers are Iraqi nationals with residence permits issued in Latvia. They were transporting migrants from Belarus.

Latvian Radio reports that the investigation started in September 2023, when a man was arrested in the port of Helsinki while trying to transport three undocumented passengers on a ferry from Tallinn.

The investigation revealed that the man and his brother had traveled 14 times on ferries arriving in Helsinki from Tallinn.

According to the Finnish Border Guard, 132 migrants were smuggled through Finland to Germany. Another group of 25 migrants was apprehended in Estonia.

According to the Finnish Border Guard, the people smugglers apprehended were most likely operating as part of a wider international people smuggling network and were responsible for one part of the scheme - transporting people across Europe.

The migrants smuggled in this way were nationals of different countries: Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Syria, Cameroon, Cuba and Tajikistan. Children were also among the migrants trafficked.

The migrants crossed the border between Belarus and Latvia, but their final destination was Germany. The Iraqi brothers, who had a Latvian residence permit, allegedly charged €1,800 per passenger for transporting the migrants.

The migrants were taken from Latvia to Estonia, then ferried to Finland, from where they were able to reach Germany via Sweden and Denmark.

The people smugglers provided the migrants with public transport tickets with false personal data. According to Finnish media, the Iraqi brothers obtained the tickets with the help of "Latvian women". 

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