Czech police arrest gang of people smugglers

A growing number of people from poor countries have been seeking better lives in the West. However, masses of illegal migrants, many of whom are being smuggled, are not greeted with open arms in these countries. Developed European countries, including the Czech Republic have been stepping up their efforts to curb this illegal traffic. Czech police have just arrested a large organised group allegedly responsible for large-scale smuggling of Chinese nationals to Europe. Nicole Klement has the details.

Last year, Europe was shocked by the discovery of a truck full of Chinese nationals suffocated in a lorry in transit to Dover, UK. On Saturday, the Czech police announced the arrest of a gang of international people smugglers believed to be involved in the deaths of the 58 Asian immigrants.

130 Czech police officers took part in an internationally- coordinated operation resulting in the arrest of eight Chinese and seven Czech nationals aged 20 to 39. They are believed to have smuggled some 1,800 Chinese illegal immigrants to Europe and the United States via the Czech Republic and Slovakia over the past two years. Thirty-three Chinese nationals were found hiding in flats in Prague and nearby towns, waiting to be brought across EU borders.

The Police seized guns, fake passports and an equivalent of 50,000 USD in cash. The ring allegedly smuggled illegal immigrants to Germany, Austria, France, Britain, the Netherlands and Spain, earning about 20 million US dollars since 1999. The Czech television channel Nova reported that the gang demanded 30,000 German marks to smuggle someone from China to Britain.

Czech police said they detained more than 2000 illegal migrants in July, most of whom tried to cross the Czech-German border. In the first seven months of this year, there were more than 14 thousand documented cases of attempted illegal border crossings, 2/3 of that number tried to cross from the Czech Republic to the West. This represents a decrease of 28 percent when compared to the same period of the year 2000.

This decrease may have been caused by the fact that the Czech Republic itself is becoming a target country for a growing number of asylum seekers and economic migrants. According to interior ministry statistics, the number of asylum seekers in the Czech Republic in the first seven months of this year have already topped last year's overall figure, putting the Czech Republic in eighth place on the ladder of European asylum destinations.

Author: Nicole Klement
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