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German police arrested two men Thursday following raids targeting organized migrant smuggling in the country’s capital and the northern state of Lower Saxony.
About 260 officers took part in the raids and searches at eight properties in Lower Saxony and another six in Berlin.
The suspects are accused of smuggling more than 200 migrants, most of them Syrians, into the European Union, German news agency dpa reported.
One of the suspects, a 23-year-old man from Berlin, was arrested in Garbsen near Hannover. The other, a 40-year-old man, was placed in custody in Lehrte near Hanover on the basis of an Austrian arrest warrant.
Authorities did not identify the suspects. But security officials alleged the two were part of a group of smugglers, most of them Iraqis, that allegedly brought at least 208 migrants into the EU during a dozen trips between August 2022 and June 2023.
The men are suspected of transporting the migrants in extreme heat and “unsuitable vehicles” and did not give the passengers rest or food, dpa reported.
They allegedly charged 4,000-5,000 euros ($4,357-$5,446) per person. The route taken by the smugglers went through Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and ultimately into Germany.
Wealthy Germany is a top destination for migrants from around the world, but shelters in the country have been filling up. The government is under pressure to curb migration and speed up deportations of rejected asylum-seekers.
In recent weeks, Germany also started carrying out systematic checks on its borders with Poland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland to keep unauthorized migrants from entering the country.
Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration