German police arrested three suspects during an operation Wednesday against a group that is believed to have smuggled at least 160 migrants into Germany over recent months.
Raids were staged in four German states Wednesday, federal police spokesman Christian Meinhold said. Two suspects were arrested in Berlin and a third in Bad Muskau, on the Polish border. Seven properties were searched.
The suspects are believed to belong to a group that smuggled migrants from the Czech Republic and Poland, largely using trucks and in some cases hiding them behind goods and pallets. The people arrested are nationals of Turkey, Poland and Bulgaria.
The alleged smuggling took place since August, with migrants largely being transported across the Balkans and then via the Czech Republic or Poland into Germany. The smugglers charged each migrant 8,000 euros (some $9,900).
In November, police in Slovakia intercepted two trucks heading for Germany with 79 migrants from Iran and Iraq on board, including 32 children under the age of 7, and arrested the two Turkish drivers.
Germany saw around 186,000 asylum-seekers arrive last year. That was much lower than the previous two years, but officials say the number is still too high and that is due in part to smugglers' activities.