STA, 28 August 2019 - Police in Celje have apprehended several persons suspected of trafficking some 280 migrants across the Slovenian border in a sting that involved over 70 criminal investigators conducting house searches in and around the city.
Eight suspects face trafficking charges and two will be additionally charged with offences related to illicit drugs. Four of the suspects remain in detention and one is abroad. All of them are Slovenian citizens, the Celje police said on Wednesday.
The suspects, some of whom have previous trafficking convictions, are believed to have run a part of a larger international criminal racket specialised in trafficking migrants.
The group is believed to have trafficked migrants from Croatia through Slovenia and into Italy in collaboration with multiple other foreign gangs, charging EUR 2,000-3,000 per person, according to Damijan Turk, the head of the Celje criminal police.
The racket enlisted drug addicts and other persons from the margins of society to carry out the actual transport with vans and cars, often even in rented recreational vehicles. The drivers would get EUR 250-500 per migrant.
Uroš Lavrič, the head of the organised crime division at the General Police Directorate, said human trafficking activities of criminal rings had picked up recently as they take advantage of illegal migrations along the Balkan route.
"They use various methods to keep the trafficking covert. They are ruthless," he said about the traffickers' habit of stuffing between 30 and 50 migrants into the cargo holds of vans.
Police have arrested 273 suspected traffickers so far this year, compared to 218 in the whole of 2018.
They intercepted over 9,000 migrants who tried to cross the border illegally, up 62% over the year before, show data by the General Police Directorate.
A total of 6,223 persons were returned to Croatia and 3,255 requested asylum.