A large illegal immigrant anti-smuggling operation involved 10 countries.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 05/02/13
Illegal immigrants from Syria, Libya and Turkey en route to Western Europe were intercepted by a joint police operation. [AFP]
Officials are hailing the results of a European-wide operation against human trafficking, which resulted in more than 100 arrests and included the participation of 10 nations.
Officials said 103 people were arrested and 117 searches were conducted in the Fimathu Project operation, which focused on stopping the smuggling of immigrants from Syria, Libya and Turkey to Western Europe. Kosovo, Montenegro, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Czech Republic and Slovakia took part in the operation.
EULEX said the contribution of Kosovo police to the operation "was unprecedented in [the type of] large scale operation that came to fruition."
While three people were arrested in Kosovo on January 29th, one other was arrested earlier in January, and 11 others in 2011 and 2012. A total of 15 people were arrested in Kosovo.
Kosovo police said the operation started in July 2011 and lasted through last week.
"Kosovo police acted along with other police forces, resulting in the arrests …," Baki Kelani, Kosovo police spokesperson, told SETimes.
According to EULEX, "some of the main leaders of this transnational crime network were operating from Kosovo, which was a transit route from Syria, Libya and Turkey to other Western European countries."
Avni Zogiani, from the NGO Kosovo Cohu, told SETimes that Kosovo is one of the routes for African immigrants. The ability to control the immigrant's movement from Kosovo to other countries is difficult.
"Regional co-operation is the only way to deal with the problem," Zogiani said.
"Co-operation between police organisations across borders is crucial in order to fight organised crime groups who are globally active," Blerim Krasniqi, EULEX spokesperson, told SETimes.
"The Europol-led Fimathu operation was carried out simultaneously in 10 countries to dismantle an international migrant smuggling network, with a success of such international police co-operation," Krasniqi added.
Kelani said the operation showed the benefits of co-operation and the exchange of information between the police forces fighting organised crime.
According to BiH police data, 75 illegal immigrants were prevented from illegally crossing the border in 2012. In the latest case, a month ago, four Syrian immigrants tried to cross the border between Montenegro and BiH.
Officials pointed out that co-operation between police agencies of the region has been successful, but may need a boost this summer when Croatia joins the EU.
"In the future, we need to strengthen the bodies dealing with uncovering the network of illegal immigrants, financially and politically," Dusanka Majkic, chairman of BiH's parliamentary joint committee on security and defense, told SETimes. "There will be more of such cases in BiH, because BiH will officially border with the EU."
SETimes correspondent Drazen Remikovic in Banja Luka contributed to this report.