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Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 15:35 UK

Raids hit EU 'people-smugglers'

Iraqi Kurds (file photo)
Police say Iraqi Kurds were smuggled to Europe via Turkey

A pan-Europe police operation has led to the arrest of 75 people suspected of trafficking Iraqi Kurds into the EU.

The suspects, believed to belong to a network of Iraqi nationals, were detained in nine European countries.

European police agency Europol said it was one of the largest co-ordinated operations against people smuggling.

The migrants may have paid up to $18,500 (12,000 euros; 9,400) each to be taken from Iraq to countries within the European Union.

The operation - codenamed "Operation Baghdad" as it targeted a network of mainly Iraqi nationals - involved some 1,300 police officers and was supported by Europol and Eurojust, the EU bodies overseeing police and judicial co-operation.

Cramped conditions

Police arrested 75 people in joint investigations in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

In a joint statement, Europol and Eurojust said: "All suspects are said to be involved in the clandestine smuggling of a large number of illegal immigrants into and within the European Union."

The network is accused of transporting illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, China, Turkey and Bangladesh to EU member states.

The migrants usually travelled in cramped conditions in camping cars, coaches, boats or even planes from Iraq via Turkey to Europe.

One of the main organisers in France is believed to have smuggled around 280 people between July 2007 and January 2008.

The migrants usually paid their money via wire transfer.

Eurojust co-ordinated the investigations at the request of French magistrates and set up an international liaison centre in Paris.




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