The tugs are said to have earned a total of more than 2.5 million euros. “The drivers tried to escape every time they stopped,” said the Lower Austrian police via broadcast. The State Criminal Police Office of Lower Austria has been investigating a criminal organization since October that repeatedly dragged Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian migrants from the Hungarian-Serbian border to Austria. The vehicles were bought in Austria and Hungary and registered for traffic in Hungary.
The tractor route led from Hungary via Slovakia and the Czech Republic via border crossings in the Mistelbach district to Austria. The migrants were dropped off in the north of Vienna. From mid-November, suspicious vehicles were checked during increased focus actions. So far, a total of 15 smugglers have been arrested immediately after crossing the border, in the Korneuburg district and in a hotel in Vienna, the police said. They were taken to the Korneuburg Prison. The organizers of the group should act from Vienna.
“The fight against people smuggling is above all the fight against organized crime,” emphasized Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). This year more than 337 people smugglers were arrested nationwide, in 2020 there were 311. “Smuggling is not only one of the largest branches of organized crime, but above all one that is deeply inhuman. Internationally operating criminal networks do business with human suffering. ” Those affected often pay thousands of euros and endanger their lives “only to find out that they are not given the right to stay,” said Nehammer.
Twelve and 15 people respectively were dragged in cars and vans per trip, the police said after the arrests. The windows in the rear of the stopped vehicle were sprayed opaque and the rear bench seats removed. “In some vehicles, the shock absorbers were reinforced with additional iron crossbars due to the weight of the transport,” said the police. The refugees named Germany as the destination country in their interrogations. According to the information, it was planned to continue by train or to be picked up by relatives from the neighboring country.
The smugglers were recruited through social media advertisements in their home countries – Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Poland. “Anyone looking for work as a driver, between 2,000 and 3,000 euros a month as earnings, car and telephone are made available,” were the calls.
On November 16, according to the police, a total of 25 tractor vehicles of this group with around 200 to 300 people were on their way from the Serbian-Hungarian border to Austria at the same time. 14 vehicles were stopped and – as well as the chauffeurs’ cell phones and several thousand euros in cash – seized. According to the executive, the accused were “extremely unscrupulous”. A driver could only be stopped after being chased by the police, another chauffeur caused a traffic accident while fleeing from the officers. Last Thursday, a tug was caught that had driven away from an inspection both in Hungary and in the Korneuburg district.
“Due to the high level of activity of the smugglers in the Balkans, there are always very dangerous actions for the migrants. Sometimes they have to wait for hours crammed into vans with little air. There are still more than 50,000 migrants in the Balkans, with a large proportion wanting to go to other target countries, ”said Gerald Tatzgern, head of the anti-smuggling office at the Federal Criminal Police Office.