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Bosnia security forces arrest alleged Dutch-Iraqi trafficking ringleader in major smuggling bust

May 23, 2024 at 9:01 pm

Irregular migrants, who were not allowed to cross the Croatian border and living in the camp ‘Vucjak’ near Bihac, reject foods, distributed by charities, as a reaction, in Bihac in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 5 December 2019. [Mustafa Öztürk – Anadolu Agency]

Bosnian security forces have arrested a suspected Dutch-Iraqi criminal ringleader, who reportedly helped smuggle over 1,500 Iraqis to the European Union, in what is said to be a major bust in the vast network of traffickers aiding illegal immigration into the continent.

According to a statement  yesterday by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA), it apprehended in the capital, Sarajevo, a Dutch citizen of Iraqi descent who is suspected of having ties to a criminal syndicate operating across Iraq, Jordan, Turkiye, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU.

Having detained the unnamed individual, SIPA added that they seized items from him that could potentially serve as vital evidence in subsequent legal proceedings, as the Bosnian security services and Europol – the EU’s law enforcement agency – currently attempt to document the case and its numerous criminal offences.

Also collaborating with the case are police authorities from other countries including Croatia, Slovenia, Germany and the UK.

The arrest and detention of the alleged smuggling leader represents the latest major bust of the network enabling tens of thousands of migrants to enter and cross Europe on a regular basis, particularly through the popular Balkan route, otherwise identified as the Bosnia and Herzegovina-Croatia-Slovenia route.

Following almost a decade of continuous refugee and migrant waves flowing through that route in an attempt to reach Europe, most from conflict zones such as Syria and Afghanistan, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reportedly put the number of migrants who crossed into Bosnia and Herzegovina last year at 35,000.

Read: Afghan migrants in Bosnia still hope to reach EU despite violent pushback