Austrian Authorities Break up European Human Trafficking Network
Monday, May 16, 2005 10:50 AM

In the last few years, an estimated five thousand immigrants were smuggled into the European Union by a human trafficking ring. Immigrants were paid up to five thousand dollars and took life-threatening risks to take the journey, primarily to Italy, Spain and Austria. An international police investigation of the trafficking has been underway for almost a year. Austrian investigators worked with Moldovan authorities to break up the ring and arrested fifty-nine of the sixty-four Romanian, Moldovan and Ukrainian suspects in a recent bust. The other five were arrested in Hungary, Poland and Romania. 

The human smugglers used various methods to hide the immigrants and evade police detection. They built false floors and secret compartments, at least one of which was welded shut and painted over. They moved car engines from the front to the rear so that up to "three immigrants could be hidden under the front hoods." Those that were hidden in these spaces had little or no room to move and many were at risk of asphyxiation. "Investigators said that the traffickers used physical force to intimidate immigrants and that some smuggled women were raped." Some immigrants, unable to pay the fee for transport, opted to take out loans from the gangs of smugglers and ended up in forced labor. Some young women were destined for forced prostitution. The investigation and questioning of the ring-leaders is ongoing.

Compiled from: "European Human Trafficking Ring Broken Up." William J. Kole. Los Angeles Times. 12 May 2005.