Among the people smugglers detained by authorities for trafficking illegal immigrants into Czechia last year, the highest number originated from Ukraine.
Figures published by Czechia’s Foreign Police and reported by the Echo24 newspaper showed Ukrainians topped the list of those caught transporting illegal immigrants into the country, followed by individuals from Syria and Georgia.
“In the period from Jan. 1 to Dec. 13, 2022, the Police of the Czech Republic detained 250 people on suspicion of committing the crime of organizing and facilitating the illegal crossing of the state border in accordance with Section 340 of the criminal code, most of them in Jihomoravské (144) and Zlínské regions (46).
“The most common nationalities of smugglers were citizens of Ukraine, Syria, Georgia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Moldova,” said Captain Josef Urban, a spokesman of the Foreign Police in response to a question from the Czech newspaper.
The rise in Ukrainians working as people smugglers, trafficking predominantly North Africans and migrants from the Middle East into the country, was highlighted in an August 2022 report produced by the Crisis Information Team of the Czech Ministry of the Interior in which it stated:
“The Czech Republic is experiencing an increase in transit illegal migration. In the last three months, the number of detainees has already exceeded the values from the time of the migration crisis in 2015. Citizens of Ukraine also participate in transporting refugees.”
In November 2022, Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský discussed the rising problem of Ukrainians working as people smugglers with the Echo24 newspaper after being deployed himself to the Czech-Slovak border as a member of the army’s active reserves.
He told the newspaper he and his colleagues “dealt with smuggling very often,” and there were regular instances of Ukrainian citizens attempting to take prospective newcomers to Europe across the border in their cars.
When asked why he felt there had been a significant rise in Ukrainian involvement in people smuggling, Zdechovský said: “First of all, there is a lack of work in Ukraine and there is an effort to earn money in any way. Second, they have free movement.
“The third reason is that the phenomenon of Ukrainian smuggling already existed long before the war, and these groups still have their contacts,” he added.
According to the Czech Foreign Police, the total number of illegal migration cases (that they know of) for 2022 was 21,852. The largest number of migrants originated from Syria (20,343), while 487 Turks, 224 Afghans, 146 Moroccans, and 81 Iraqi nationals were also registered.