Traffickers Abusing Vulnerable Cubans Arrested

Traffickers Abusing Vulnerable Cubans Arrested: Over 60 people have been arrested as a result of a global law enforcement operation into an international criminal network that trafficked female Cuban refugees to other criminal organizations for sexual exploitation in some cases.

According to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, the criminal organization transported over 5,000 Cuban citizens into the EU for a profit of nearly $50 million.

The migrant smuggling network advertised its services to Cubans through a messaging app, organizing their journey to Europe and providing them with forged documents. The migrants were flown from Cuba to Serbia, then to Greece, before landing in Spain or Italy.

The network targeted Cubans in “vulnerable situations,” charging them nearly $10,000 for its services.

Europol’s investigation, conducted in collaboration with authorities in Germany, Greece, North Macedonia, Spain, and Serbia, resulted in the arrest of 62 smugglers, 25 of whom were Cuban nationals.

Europol described its role in organizing operational meetings and sending analysts and a specialist to Serbia, Greece, and Spain to provide support there in a statement released on Monday. On the day of the operation in June, Europol also offered advice to the personnel who had been deployed.

The investigation uncovered a “complex criminal infrastructure” set up in major cities across Spain, Greece and Serbia.

Europol said that “on the action day in June 2023, police officers from all three countries seized a variety of criminal assets, including hundreds of forgery tools and forged documents.” In total, 144 bank accounts, 33 automobiles, and 18 pieces of real estate were seized, as well as large sums of cash in various currencies.

According to Europol, the investigation began in October 2021 after authorities in Serbia, Greece, North Macedonia, and Finland noticed an increase in the number of Cuban migrants attempting to enter Europe with false documentation.

The Agency and Frontex issued a joint intelligence notification in January 2023 with the subject “Cuban nationals smuggled into the EU: shifting routes and modi operandi in a changed geo-political landscape.”

According to the report, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has had an impact on Cuban smuggling routes. Previously flown to Russia, Cuban nationals are now flown to Serbia via a German airport, where smugglers arrange for them to enter North Macedonia and Greece.

“Using a variety of routes, the smugglers would direct large groups of migrants and make them walk in the dark without supplies for hours,” Europol explained. “In addition to these arduous conditions, the criminals would take advantage of the most vulnerable migrants, including minors, and subject them to scams, robberies, and extortion. In some cases, women were transferred to other criminal groups for sexual exploitation.”

According to the agency, migrants would apply for asylum in Greece, or smugglers would arrange their travel to other EU countries by providing them with forged documents. Members of the criminal network have occasionally used the “lookalike” method to allow migrants to enter the EU. The method entails stealing documents and giving them to a migrant who resembles the theft victim.

Since the summer release of the film “The Sound of Freedom,” investigations into human smuggling have grown in importance. The film, which had earned more than $100 million worldwide at the time of publication, is based on the true story of a Colombian operation to rescue children from sex traffickers.

Tim Ballard, a former federal agent who quit his position and successfully assisted in the rescue of 123 people, including 55 children, is the main character of the movie.


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