Political News

The Latest: Spain: No IS links to migrant smuggling gang

Posted May 17

— The Latest on asylum-seekers and migrants in Europe (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Spanish police say that a criminal network that smuggled migrants into Europe over a decade has no known links to Islamic extremists.

European Union police agency Europol says it helped break up the gang, and that seven alleged members, including its suspected leader, were arrested in Spain and one in Greece as a result of a coordinated series of raids on houses in late March.

Spanish police say that gang chiefly helped traffic migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to countries in northern Europe.

A Spanish police statement said the network leader, a man of Syrian origin, was arrested in Madrid and his brother in Athens. It said the leader lived between Spain and Belgium.

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12:55 p.m.

European Union police agency Europol says it has helped break up a criminal network that had been working for 10 years to smuggle migrants into Europe and provide them with false identification documents.

Europol said in a statement Wednesday that seven alleged members of the gang, including its suspected leader, were arrested in Spain and one in Greece as a result of a coordinated series of raids on houses in late March.

Europol said the gang operated its own document forgery factory in Greece, a country that for years was the main entry point for migrants from the Mideast and Africa trying to reach Europe.

Raids in Spain, Greece and Belgium uncovered 100,000 euros in cash, documents, data storage devices and mobile phones.

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12:15 p.m.

Poland's interior minister has played down new warnings of European Union sanctions over Warsaw's refusal to accept migrants, saying accepting them would have been "worse" than the EU rebuke.

Mariusz Blaszczak was reacting Wednesday to comments by EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on nations that don't take any migrants by June. Avramopoulos singled out Poland and Hungary.

Blaszczak argued on state radio that the "security of Poland and of the Poles" was at stake, and drew a link to terror attacks in Western Europe.

He added that accepting migrants would have "certainly been worse for Poland" than facing EU action.

On taking power in 2015, Poland's government reversed a decision by its predecessors to take in some 10,000 refugees.

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10:15 a.m.

Swedish authorities say three fires at refugee centers in southern Sweden are being investigated as arson.

No injuries have been reported and no arrests have been made. But police said in separate statement that more than 300 asylum-seekers have been evacuated after Wednesday's pre-dawn fires in Vaxjo, Borrby and Malilla. About 200 of them were relocated to a nursing home in Vaxjo.

The affected buildings were used as a temporary home for refugees while their cases are being processed.

Sweden, which had a record 163,000 asylum applications in 2015, saw an increase in anti-migrant attitudes last year with a number of arson fires targeting refugee centers.

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