N24 Correspondent, PARIS:- A total of 38 persons have been arrested in France, Moldova, and Romania due to migrant smuggling and human trafficking for labour exploitation and similar issues. Among them, 28 were arrested in France followed by 7 in Moldova and 3 in Romania.
According to Schengen Visa Info, the smuggling of the criminal group has been brought to light through an investigation conducted by the French’s Border Police as part of the National Police, the Romanian Police, and the Moldovan Police and backed by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation Europol and Eurojust agency.
The investigation started in 2018 when police officers in France found a van transporting ten migrants unlawfully.
“They were Moldovan nationals, and a number of them had counterfeit Romanian identity cards. The criminal group, organized by a Romanian national living in France, smuggled at least 40 Moldovan nationals to exploit them in France’s construction business,” Europol statement notes.
According to the agency, the criminal group gave counterfeit Romanian identity cards to irregular migrants as well as driving licenses; at the same time, they kept their real passports as a guarantee.
The majority of smuggled persons did not have a high level of education; therefore, they were more at risk to be abused, working 55 hours a week for €60 a day.
Construction and renovation companies were also included in the criminal smuggling.
“This activity was extremely lucrative, with illegal profits estimated at almost €14 million. The suspects laundered the criminal assets through eight shell companies, most of them based in France,” the statement reads.
Europol helped to exchange the information, providing also analytical support. The joint investigation was part of EMPACT’s Joint Operational Team Doc Fraud.
In May 2020, France, Romania and Moldova, agreed to be part of the Joint Investigation Team, which Eurojust set up.
Illegal immigration, terrorist attacks and other threats previously pushed the French President Emmanuel Macron to call on the European Union to reanalyze the free movement in the European Union, stressing that Europe’s borderless area of Schengen needs to be reformed.
Back then, Macron highlighted that France would double its police numbers from 2,400 to 4,800 to protect its borders better.
Soon after Macron’s comments, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel supported France’s President’s call on the EU, recalling that the Schengen Zone immediately needs to be reformed.