Almost 500 migrant smugglers apprehended this year
Slovenian police have apprehended almost 500 migrant smugglers so far this year as the number of cases they handled doubled on the same period a year ago. A vast majority of the smuggles were foreigners.
Presenting the statistics at a press conference on 11 December, police officials said 457 of the 466 smugglers apprehended until 8 December were foreigners and nine were Slovenian nationals.
Most of the smugglers were from Romania, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, Moldova and Georgia. A total of 427 smugglers were remanded in custody.
The smugglers were intercepted transporting 2,777 people across the border illegally.
This year police handled 56,821 cases of people crossing illegally into the country, 96% of which at the border with Croatia, Peter Skerbiš from the General Police Administration said.
The number of illegal crossings on the south border was up by 91% year-on-year to 54,500.
Between 21 October, when border checks were reintroduced, and 8 December, police apprehended 145 persons for smuggling 868 migrants across the border.
Slovenia remains a transit country on the Western Balkan migration route. Recently, smugglers get involved in car chases with police more frequently, said Damjan Apollonio from the General Police Administration.
Police have also noticed that smugglers have raised the prices of their services because police have made many arrests in recent months, so the risk of being caught is higher for criminal gangs.
Police concluded three major investigations into organised people smuggling in the areas of Koper, Maribor and Ljubljana this year, apprehending 41 smugglers.
The criminal gangs also exploit the migrants for prostitution or other types of sexual abuse, slavery, forced labour, forced crime and forced begging under seemingly legit businesses.
Web of criminal activity uncovered
At a separate press conference, police presented the conclusions of an extensive operation in which they dismantled a web of criminal rings involved in human trafficking, prostitution, migrant smuggling and drug trafficking.
They have filed criminal complaints against 27 suspects, of whom 12 are in detention. They are suspected of 113 organised crime offences, according to investigator Stojan Belšak.
The investigation started at the end of 2021, when the police were tipped off by two victims of human trafficking who were forced into prostitution.
The sting revealed that this particular crime ring was led by a 65-year-old man from Ljubljana who used different ways to lure victims to Slovenia and then pimped them out under coercion. The victims were mainly foreign citizens.
One of his main accomplices was a 44-year-old woman, a Slovenian citizen who is currently serving a prison sentence for the same crime. She helped him while being in prison as well as while on furlough.
The ring lured 43 victims to Slovenia. The victims came from Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic and Slovenia.
One of the ring members, a Montenegrin citizen, was also involved in a migrant smuggling racket led by a 44-year-old man from Ljubljana that mainly consisted of taxi drivers and their family members and friends.
A total of 17 suspects identified transported at least 378 migrants through Slovenia. They got their hands on information about foreigners who had already illegally crossed Slovenian borders and were mainly present in the Ljubljana area or in the vicinity of asylum centres. They offered them transport to Italy.
As criminals are becoming increasingly creative in hiding their illegal activities, police have called for legislative changes to enable the fight against all forms of organised crime and terrorism.