09:13 GMT +312 November 2019
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    Refugees sleep outside the entrance of the Swedish Migration Agency's arrival center for asylum seekers at Jagersro in Malmo, Sweden, early November 20, 2015

    Pernicious People Movers: Human Traffickers on Trial in Sweden

    © AFP 2019 / TT NEWS AGENCY / STIG-AKE JONSSON
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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (162)
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    At the height of last year's migration crisis, refugees were smuggled to Europe by a number of networks. Predictably, some of them were run directly from Europe and were strictly profit-driven. Today, three Swedish citizens, all in their thirties, are on trial for mass human trafficking.

    Swedish-registered cars and campers, sometimes filled to the brim, were used to drive Syrian refugees through Europe; Sweden was their final destination. Even if some of the passengers were stopped in Germany and Denmark and weren't able to make it, the scheme was strictly profit-driven.

    "They ran cars down to refugee camps in Milan, based on demand. They drove around and asked people if they were willing to pay for a lift up to Scandinavia," prosecutors Isabelle Bjursten said, as quoted by Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.

    The indictment covers at least 15 occasions, where up to 170 people paid for transportation from Milan to Sweden. The "fare" was around 500 euros per person, whereas children rode free of charge.

    Cars, minibuses and campers filled to the brim were used by the culprits. In several cases, cars were filled to the limit. In two reported cases, 17 and 20 people were squeezed into a camper designed to accommodate only five passengers. Several former passengers were called as witnesses in the trial.

    Police bugged the telephones of the suspects and carried out extensive surveillance against them, but the prosecutor nevertheless failed to prove that the business was particularly lucrative. For the fifteen trips documented, their total net profit only amounted to about 150,000 SEK ($17,000). According to Bjursten, there is reason to believe that more trips may have been made.

    Most of the network's customers were refugees who had come to Europe from Syria. And since most of the "shipments" were stopped before they reached Swedish soil, it is not known where the refugees found themselves.

    The charges are in many ways unusual. The men are suspected to have been engaged in smuggling as a regular business. According to the prosecution, they used a building in Vendelsö, Sweden, which they referred to as "office."

    Sweden started to investigate human trafficking after police in Germany, Denmark and Austria encountered a number of Swedish-registered cars with Syrian refugees as passengers. Since the refugees lacked valid passports and residence permits, the drivers were subsequently convicted of human trafficking in the countries where the cars were stopped.

    Topic:
    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (162)

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    migrant crisis, human trafficking, Scandinavia, Sweden
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