Merchant ship captain arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and forced labour in Murcia Spain

THE Guardia Civil arrested the captain of a merchant ship in Cartagena, Murcia, Spain, after intercepting the vessel that was allegedly being used for the illegal transport and forced labour of migrants, officials said on Saturday, November 27.

The National Police said in a press release that eight Syrian nationals – alleged victims of a criminal organisation operating the ship – had been released shortly after the ship was seized.

Upon boarding the ship, police said they discovered falsified documents that depicted at least one of the Syrian nationals as a crew member. On closer inspection of the documents, it is was found that the ship was illegally operating as a merchant vessel.

Guardia Civil officers discovered false passports and other documents on the ship. image: Guardia Civil

They added that the Syrians on board “lacked training or qualifications for maritime tasks” but “had apparently been forced to work on the ship under exploitative labour conditions” over several months.

“Collaboration between European agencies revealed that the aforementioned ship would have changed its name up to three times, making it difficult to track and monitor,” said the Guardia Civil.

The ship’s captain was arrested and detained on suspicion of belonging to a criminal organisation, violating the rights of foreign citizens, and falsifying official documents.

Operation Otterman began thanks to the collaboration and cooperation between European agencies, including Europol and Interpol.

Officer’s line up the Syrian refugees and crew member’s of the ship. image: Guardia Civil

The Guardia Civil were alerted to the transit of a ship allegedly used by a national criminal organisation for people trafficking- under the guise of a merchant vessel used for transporting goods.

The ship itself- originally used to transport cattle- had changed its name three times to avoid detection. According to the police report, Syrian refugees were charged €13,000 for safe transit to Europe.

The investigation was precipitated by the interception of two people in the municipality of Mazarrón, who managed to jump ship as it came close to the Murcian coast.

When quizzed by police, both men said that they decided to escape due to the appalling conditions aboard the vessel and their belief that they would never reach Europe, but would be taken back to their place of origin instead.

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