Author: ALEXANDER ROBERTSON FOR MAILONLINE
A smuggling gang have been jailed for a total of 1,400 years after forcing migrants to live in filthy caves in Greece before charging £3,500 each to get them into Europe.
From there, the migrants were packed into crowded boats for an ‘incredibly dangerous journey’ to mainland Europe.
The smugglers were finally caught with a boat full of 112 migrants after a joint operation by European agencies, including the UK’s National Crime Agency.
One of the ringleaders, an Iraqi man, was sentenced to 357 years behind bars, while two Afghan men and a Syrian man were given 360-year jail terms.
All 112 migrants were rescued in a joint operation by the Hellenic Police, Hellenic Coastguard and the National Crime Agency in March 2017.
But it is feared that hundreds more may have reached European countries before the smugglers were caught out.
Horrendous photographs reveal the horrible conditions that the smugglers forced the migrants to live in.
Chris Hogben, head of the taskforce at the NCA said: ‘The utter disregard for human life shown by those groups was clearly demonstrated in this case, with migrants forced to live in squalor and then attempt an incredibly dangerous journey by sea.’
Each smuggler was fined more than £1million and another seven members of the international crime group were handed sentences between six and 12 years.
The gang were aided by six members of a criminal network in Crete, including a policeman, all of whom were sentenced for up to five years behind bars last month.
Mr Hogben added: ‘The very substantial sentences handed down by the Greek Court should send a very clear message to those tempted to profit from this sort of criminality.
The criminal networks involved in people smuggling cross international boundaries so it is vital as an international law enforcement community we work together to tackle them.
‘The UK provided vital support in this investigation, and it shows how our partnership with the Greek authorities is vital to protect life and disrupt the organised crime groups making money from people’s misery.’