Four Bulgarians have been arrested in an operation by Spain’s Guardia Civil in which a human trafficking network involved in forced labour exploitation was dismantled.
The Spanish Guardia Civil was closely supported by EU police agency Europol. The Bulgarian authorities, present during the action day, supported the Spanish authorities with the identification and assistance of the victims, a Europol statement said.
The operation took place on November 2 but details were announced by Europol only on November 8
As a result of the operation, 33 victims were safeguarded in Segovia and Valladolid in Spain.
The criminal group, composed of Bulgarian nationals, recruited the victims in their home country by luring them with the promise of well-paid jobs in Spain, Europol said.
The victims, all from the region of Pleven, were transported from Bulgaria in vehicles belonging to the criminal group or by regular bus service.
On arrival in Spain, the victims were subjected to adverse conditions, most notably debt bondage: they were expected to work to pay off the exorbitant fees for their journey to Spain. The victims were also forced to live in cramped, dirty conditions, the police agency’s statement said.
The victims were forced to work in citrus fields across Spain without any work contract or social security for a very low pay.
The ringleaders used the wages of the workers to pay for rent, food and transport, leaving the victims with as little as 50 euro for two months’ worth of labour.
Europol supported the Spanish authorities throughout the investigation with operational analyses and the on-the-spot deployment of a mobile office and equipment allowing for the forensic extraction of operational data (UFED), the European police agency said.