Albanian Mafia's New Way to Smuggle Migrants into Britain
Albanian Daily News
Published September 10, 2017
Some of the migrants heading towards the ferryThe Albanian mafia have opened up a new route to smuggle migrants into Britain through a busy Spanish port, a Sunday People investigation has found.
Gangsters charging up to £2,500 per person are successfully trafficking those desperate for a new life - including refugees from the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria - aboard ferries from Bilbao.
Police in the northern Spanish city are struggling to cope with the surge in migrants in the last three months.
In two years there has been a tenfold increase in people caught trying to get into lorries or containers at the port.
But under Spanish law they are committing only a civil offence - so police can only take their details and free them.
Hundreds more camping out waiting to seize their chance can also not be touched - as they carry tourist visas.
Our probe found that after handing the huge fee to Mafia bosses, migrants are given a phone, along with £700 in cash to smuggle to fixers in Britain.
Lured with the promise of illegal jobs in car washes and on building sites in London, they are unaware they will finish up at the mercy of callous gang masters.
Arriving in Bilbao, our investigators found more than 100 people in tents and under motorway bridges at the port perimeter.
Ismail, 29, a welder from Peshkopi in north east Albania, shares a two-man tent with three others, including his nephew.
He told us: "I wanted to go to England legally, but it's impossible. Now I have to go illegally.
"I know there are people you can pay but I have no money. I have to try and get there for free by smuggling myself."
In 2015, police made 119 stops of migrants trying to sneak through Bilbao's port. In 2016, that figure rose to 380. This year, it is already at a record 1,200.
Those caught included 60 Iraqis, 45 Afghans and 25 Pakistanis. By far the most - 950 of them - came from Albania.
At a makeshift camp 300m west of Bilbao's port we found scores of Albanian men, mainly in their teens and 20s.
Some were fleeing the ex-Communist country after suffering persecution over their ethnicity, sexuality or religion.
But with high youth unemployment, many others are economic migrants. The UK, with 20,000 Albanians legally living here, is their most popular destination.
Two camps in the hills around Bilbao port were destroyed by police a week ago and security has been stepped up.
Fences have been beefed up, CCTV increased and more private security patrols hired. But that has not deterred the smugglers or their desperate "clients".
Once they have made it to the port, they risk serious injury and even death in their efforts to start a new life here. Many jump on to moving trucks as they approach the gates, or scramble into parked trailers, hoping to hide among their cargo.
Others are helped into sealed shipping containers, risking suffocation as they wait for them to be opened again at their destination. Some jump on to the ferries themselves as they are leaving port.
Ismail told us: "I've been here a month. When I arrived there were more here. Some have given up and gone to Italy instead, some managed to get to England.
(Source: The Mirror)