Italian police supported by the European Police Agency arrested 26 people this week suspected of smuggling thousands of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan into Europe.
The smuggling network was responsible for transporting about 200 hundreds migrants a month since August 2008, according to a news release from Europol. Twenty percent of those moved through the network were children, the police agency said.
The migrants were first moved through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey into Greece, the agency said. From there, they went through Albania, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro or Bosnia into Rome for transport northward. Most went to the United Kingdom, Norway and Sweden. The migrants could spend from days to weeks in transit, depending upon circumstances.
Migrants paid anywhere from $4,600 to $6,600 for the trip. Money was moved through the system using the â€śhawalaâ€ť money transfer network that operates outside of normal banking channels, Europol said.
Most of the 26 arrests were made in Italy, but others were taken into custody in France and Germany, Europol said.