THE Policia Nacional has arrested a Costa Blanca gang that ran dangerous boat journeys for illegal migrants from Algeria to Spain.
At least 88 people were brought over on six trips with a charge of €5,000 per head- with eight of the travellers being unaccompanied children.
Extra charges included a €300 pick-up fee on the Alicante Province and Murcia coasts, and a nightly €50 increment if they stayed in a secure Orihuela apartment.
Migrants wanting to go elsewhere in Spain would incur a cost of €400.
Five people- including the gang leader and two pilots- have been detained in Orihuela, with an additional arrest in Navarra province.
€54,900 in cash was removed by the police in addition to documents related to their inquiries.
The Policia Nacional investigation, in association with Europol, began in October 2021 following a boat interception on the coast which uncovered a significant people smuggling operation.
The group coordinated with a gang in Algeria that recruited travellers and organised boat departures to Spain.
The Orihuela smugglers owned fibre boats, stored fuel, and had compasses and GPS devices for the dangerous sea journey.
Their crew members also possessed the knowledge and expertise necessary to carry out the risky crossings.
Such was their level of specialisation, that several round trips were made on the same day with the same pilot and boat, and they could launch up to three boats at the same time.
Most of the trips took place at night with the thin fibre crafts having to carry excess weight with the high number of people on board and the gasoline drums that had been accumulated.
There were zero protective measures for the travellers with no life jackets or life belts.