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Police detain smugglers with 22 refugees in van near Prague

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Prague, March 9 (CTK) – Three people-smugglers have been caught on the Prague ring road transferring 22 refugees from Iraq, Syria and Turkey in a van to Germany, police spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej said on Friday, adding that the suspects previously smuggled further 100 migrants across the Czech Republic.

The smugglers have been taken into custody. They face up to eight years in prison, if found guilty, Ibehej, from the police’s organised crime squad (NCOZ), told CTK.

He said the suspects are Turkish nationals.

The refugees entered the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening. A part of them had set out for Europe from Turkey, another part from Romania, from where they travelled in a lorry via Hungary and Slovakia.

After crossing the Czech border near Jablunkov, east Moravia, a van waited for them to take them to Germany.

The police detained them on the Prague outskirts in the early hours of Wednesday.

Ibehej said 18 adults and four children were found in the van.

“One of the women was in a high stage of pregnancy and the police called urgent medical service to her,” he said.

The migrants were handed over to the immigration police, who have launched expulsion proceedings with some, while others are subject to readmission proceedings and should be returned to the country where they applied for asylum before entering the Czech Republic, Ibehej said.

All the migrants have ended in detention facilities.

In uncovering the people smugglers, the Czech police have cooperated with their Slovak and German counterparts, who monitored the gang for about two months.

The investigation showed that the smugglers organised at least six similar transfers in the past, accepting 2,000-8,000 euros for each smuggled person.

The Czech immigration police say the Czech Republic has been neither a main transit nor destination country for foreign migrants.

Last year, the Czech police detained 172 migrants, compared with 511 in 2016 and 2,294 in 2015, when the migrant crisis culminated.

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