Austria, Hungary, and France, through an operation called ‘Operation Austrian Oak’ supported by Europol, have managed to arrest six suspects for driving from France to the Serbia-Hungary border, smuggling at least 255 migrants into Austria using vehicles with French license plates.
In a recent statement, Europol emphasised five of the arrested persons were French citizens, and one had Moroccan citizenship, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
At the same time, the authority revealed that between August and September of last year, a total of 25 French citizens had been arrested in Austria under suspicion of committing the same crime.
“Forerunners were used to detect and avoid police checks and checkpoints. After arriving in Austria, the illegal migrants were further transported by other drivers,” the statement reads.
According to Europol, which is the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, the operation was carried out in cooperation with the Austrian Criminal Intelligence Service and two provincial criminal police departments, the French National Police and the Hungarian National Police.
The agency claims to have shown great support throughout this operation by providing analysis products as well as by coordinating the operational meetings between the participants. It also contributed to the medical-legal support and the establishment of a mobile office during the day of the action.
For Europol, this is not the first time that it has assisted in such operations, since previously, in February of this year, Slovenian authorities, in cooperation with the agency, arrested 13 people suspected of smuggling at least 212 immigrants.
The arrested persons came from Slovenia, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Through these activities, the smugglers forced migrants to pay large sums of money to them to enter the EU, after which they headed to different destinations within its borders.
During the operation, law enforcement confiscated various illegal drugs, illegal doping substances, electronic equipment, and cash.
In order to make the fight against smugglers more effective, only recently, Europol, together with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and the European Commission, have discussed the possibility of introducing innovative technology in order to strengthen the borderless Schengen area further.
As the European Commission’s Director for Borders, Schengen, and Visa, Matthias Oel, explains, the EU is making efforts to invest in the new IT architecture in order to make the bloc the most advanced entity in terms of border protection.
The three existing systems operating at the EU level for the management of border security and migration are as follows:
- The Schengen Information System (SIS), which contains a wide range of alerts for people who have been refused entry, have an EU arrest warrant, are missing, need assistance in court proceedings, and objects, including identity or travel documents lost, stolen, or invalid.
- Eurodac system with fingerprint data of asylum applicants and third-country nationals who have crossed the external borders irregularly.
- Visa Information System (VIS) with data on short-stay visa holders.
Meanwhile, the other three systems that are still in preparation include the future Entry/Exit System (EES), the proposed European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), the proposed European Criminal Records Information System for third-country nationals (ECRIS- TCN system).