Police arrest 26 for smuggling Algerians into Spain

Migrants sit atop a border fence separating Morocco from the north African Spanish enclave of Melilla in an attempt to jump. (AFP)
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Updated 03 February 2020

Police arrest 26 for smuggling Algerians into Spain

  • Spain is one of the main gateways to Europe for migrants coming from Africa
  • The figures have fallen since Morocco stepped up its fight against irregular migration in coordination with European and Spanish authorities

MADRID: Spanish police on Monday said they had arrested 26 suspected smugglers who brought more than 900 migrants to Spain last year, mostly from Algeria, charging 2,500 euros ($2,800) per person.
The network, which was based in Algeria and the southeastern Spanish provinces of Alicante and Almeria, used powerful speedboats which set out from the northern port of Oran and crossed the western Mediterranean in three hours, a police statement said.
It also ran a route between Tangiers in northern Morocca and the southern Spanish port of Algeciras.
“Each immigrant had to pay the organization between 2,000 and 2,500 euros for the crossing” and another 500 euros to be transported by car to cities in southern and eastern Spain “where they stayed with family and friends,” it said.
If they failed to stump up the full payment, they were dumped along the way or held hostage until their families covered the amount owed in a business which earned the network “more than 1.5 million euros” last year, the police said.
The detainees, whose nationality was not given, were mainly rounded up during six raids in Almeria and Alicante during which police also confiscated 17 vehicles.
Spain is one of the main gateways to Europe for migrants coming from Africa, with some 26,168 people arriving by sea in 2019, interior ministry figures show.
But overall, the numbers coming by sea have fallen significantly, down 54.5 percent on 57,498 who made the journey a year earlier.
The figures have fallen since Morocco stepped up its fight against irregular migration in coordination with European and Spanish authorities in a move which has pushed those desperate to reach Europe to seek out other routes, notably via Algeria.


Wife of British-born ‘aid worker’ demands Syria rebels release him

Updated 04 July 2020

Wife of British-born ‘aid worker’ demands Syria rebels release him

  • Tauqir Sharif, 33, was detained on June 22 by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS)
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sharif was detained over his alleged ties with rival rebels

ATME: The wife of a self-described aid worker stripped of his British nationality has called for his release after he was detained by rebels in Syria’s last major rebel bastion.
Tauqir Sharif, 33, was detained on June 22 by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a dominant group in Syria’s northwestern region of Idlib, his supporters say.
“We haven’t been given anything from HTS to even say what the allegations are” against him, his wife Racquell Hayden Best told AFP in the town of Atme, adding that she had been scrambling for information on his detention.
“We have heard ourselves that he is innocent. If he is an innocent man, why are you holding him in prison?” she asked.
Sharif, whose father is originally from Pakistan, hails from Chingford on the eastern outskirts of London and first arrived in Syria in 2012, according to the Live Updates From Syria organization he founded with his wife.
Britain stripped him of his British nationality in 2017, accusing him of links to an Al-Qaeda-aligned group it did not specify, the British press has said, but Sharif has denied the allegation.
HTS has not commented on Sharif’s detention, which comes at a time of heightened tensions between the group and other fighters in the Idlib region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said Sharif was detained over his alleged ties with rival rebels.
A fragile cease-fire has since March stemmed a Russia-backed regime offensive against Idlib.
The region is home to some three million people, a large proportion of whom have been displaced from their homes by Syria’s nine-year-old war and are dependent on humanitarian aid.