Spanish police arrested 37 suspects across Spain accused of human trafficking. The criminal network was based in Barcelona and had smuggled in 730 Vietnamese citizens to Spain. The network charged €18,000 per person and then forced the trafficked victims to work in manicure centres upon arrival.
Among those arrested was a public official in the region of Huelva, who falsified work permits and residency documents.
The criminal organization filed asylum cases under the 'Provisions concerning protection measures for unaccompanied minors' directive, an E-wide law by which non-EU unaccompanied can claim asylum. The organization smuggled in people through airports in Madrid and Barcelona by filing fraudulent claims.
The Vietnamese citizens who were smuggled first travelled to various destinations in Latin America before pretending to transit through the Spanish airports. Once in Spain, they claimed asylum.
Spanish agents began investigating the network last year when the number of applications for asylum for unaccompanied minors from Madrid and Barcelona suddenly increased.
The organization made €13 million from the illicit activity since the beginning of 2018 alone. The Vietnamese citizens paid €18,000 each to reach Spain, according to a report by Spanish police (in Spanish). Some paid in cash, others paid with land or assets in Vietnam or with deferred debt which they then paid back working in Spain.
More than 100 Vietnamese beauty salons were inspected across Spain as part of the operation. Spanish police conducted their investigations in Sevilla, Granada, Murcia, Almería, Cádiz, Málaga, Madrid, Valencia, San Sebastián, Girona, Lérida, Tarragona, León, Huelva, Córdoba and Barcelona. Thousands of euros in cash, vehicles and assets were confiscated following raids in several locations.
Many of the people smuggled were forced to work 12-hour shifts in manicure centres, were made to live in squalid conditions and were denied freedom of movement – ferried to and from work under the supervision of the traffickers.