Sweden sees fivefold rise in people-smuggler arrests

Sweden sees fivefold rise in people-smuggler arrests
Passport checks at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT
Swedish police have arrested an average of one suspected people smuggler every day for the last year, new figures from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande Rådet – Brå) show.

Five times more smugglers were apprehended in the first half of 2016 than in the same period last year, Dagens Nyheter reports. 

In the twelve-month period ending on June 30th this year, police arrested a total of 363 people suspected of involvement in people smuggling, Brå’s figures show. 

Police attribute the rise to two main factors: the introduction of border checks in Sweden, and a more general increase in smuggling across Europe. 

“We are finding people who don’t know their driver at all, hidden under blankets. Or it might be a taxi driver who has taken an outrageous amount of money to ensure people get into the country,” border police chief Mikael Mattsson told the newspaper. 

Police estimate there to be around 40 people-smuggling networks that use Swedish passports to bring people in, as well as a host of other networks using different methods. 

And increasing numbers of newcomers to Sweden are being hired to smuggle people into the country, according to the police’s national operative division. 

“Perhaps they have been smuggled by the same organization and are doing this as part of the payment,” the division’s Skåne region chief Nicklas Lundh told Dagens Nyheter. 

Most people smuggled into Sweden come by car from Denmark, or by plane.

Europol estimates that that the illicit business of smuggling refugees into and within Europe was worth 50 billion kronor ($6 billion) in 2015. 

Smuggling costs for refugees are thought to have risen threefold over the course of the year as countries across Europe have tightened their border controls.  

Anyone found guilty of people smuggling in Sweden can be jailed for up to six years. 

Sweden took in more than 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, putting it among the EU states with the highest proportion of refugees per capita.

It has since tightened its asylum rules to curb the migrant flow.