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Eight migrant traffickers charged

Eight persons have been charged with involvement in a migrant trafficking ring through Bulgaria en route to Western Europe following Monday's arrest of 17 persons.

An Iraqi national was the ringleader. The rest of the migrant traffickers were two Bulgarians, one Syrian and four Afghans, it emerged from a briefing of the Specialized Prosecution Office, the Directorate General for Combating Organized Crime (DGCOC) and the State Agency for National Security (SANS). Some of the foreigners were married to Bulgarian women who were aware of the scheme.

The traffickers have been operating in Bugaria and Serbia since early 2017. An investigation was launched in mid-2018 based on data provided by DGCOC and SANS and information from partner services.

The migrants were mostly Afghans, Pakistanis and Iraqis, who were trafficked from Turkey through Bulgaria to Serbia where they were turned over to local traffickers and were taken to Germany, France and other countries.

The scheme originated in Afghanistan where it was masterminded by a relative of one of the arrested persons. From there, the migrants were taken to Turkey through Iran.

The migrants were smuggled over the green border (the area with no official crossing points). They were smuggled from Turkey into Bulgaria along the River Maritsa, apparently by boat, and were then bussed to two Sofia neighbourhoods with a large Roma population where they spent a couple of days. The migrants paid between 8,000 and 10,000 euro each.

On Wednesday the prosecuting magistrates will ask the court for indefinite custody of the eight persons. Evidence is being gathered for possible involvement of border guards.  

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