Czech Police Break Up an International Ring Smuggling at Least 1,000 Migrants to Western Europe

PRAGUE (AP) -- Czech police said Tuesday that they have broken up an international ring suspected of smuggling migrants from Turkey to western Europe.

A total of 14 suspects -- 13 foreigners whose countries of origin were not specified and a Czech citizens -- have been arrested in raids across the country in recent days, police said. The suspects allegedly organized a transport of at least 1,000 illegal migrants since 2021, earning at least 1 million euros ($1.1 million).

The smugglers face up to 16 years in prison if tried and convicted.

The migrants have been using the Czech Republic as a transit route on their way to the West, officials said, and mostly do not apply for asylum in Czechia, as the country is also known.

In February, the Czech government lifted controls, which were renewed at the country's border with Slovakia in September amid a new wave of migration, mostly from Syria.