Police in Germany arrested six people on Saturday accused of being part of a people-smuggling gang. Two of the six were Czech citizens. The gang were arrested after 26 Chinese illegal migrants were smuggled into Germany from the Czech Republic - part of the growing trade in human lives in which Czech criminals are becoming increasingly involved.
This latest incident began on Saturday in the German city of Dortmund. Police apprehended a Chinese man with fake ID papers during a routine check on a car. Suspecting the man was connected to an attempt to smuggle Chinese migrants into Germany, they contacted the border police, who discovered a suspicious van parked in the town of Bochum.
Inside, hiding behind crates of beer, were 26 Chinese migrants, exhausted from their journey. The van's two drivers - both Czech citizens - were arrested. German police have carried out preliminary interviews with the 26, and have established they paid some 4,000 euros each to be smuggled into the country.
Saturday's case was just the tip of the iceberg for police in Germany and the Czech Republic, trying to stem a constant tide of illegal migrants being smuggled into Western Europe.
Last week Czech police announced they had broken up an international gang of people-smugglers operating in the country for 12 months. The gang was believed to have smuggled at least 500 people across the border. Eighteen Czechs were arrested, including three women. Police said the gang - which mainly smuggled people from the Indian sub-continent - was highly organised.
Several days earlier police in Slovakia arrested six Slovaks accused of smuggling more than a hundred illegal migrants into the Czech Republic. The six included a Slovak customs official. The migrants were found lying in a special compartment built into a truck which originally carried animal carcasses.
The ingenuity of the people-smuggling gangs and the sheer scale of the problem means police often have to rely on good luck to stop them. And with the Czech Republic joining the EU on May 1st, this country will become far more attractive - undergoing a transition from a country of transit to a country of destination.
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