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Police Investigate Smuggling of Afghanis

Police are investigating the activities of an organised group that has illegally brought dozens of Afghanis into the country. The daily Helsingin Sanomat reported on Monday that the Helsinki District Court has remanded four Latvian citizens into custody in connection with the investigation.

Image: YLE / Mari Itkonen

Finnish police have been working on several cases of organised illegal entry. In March, five Estonian men were convicted of illegally smuggling Afghanis into the country.

According to Inspector Marjut Kronlund of the Helsinki Police, the Latvians now in custody seem to have had a bigger role in the criminal organisation than the Estonians already convicted. In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat, she declined to speculate on a precise number of people that have been brought in by the gang. The number is, however, thought to be in the dozens.

Apparently the route used by the smugglers has run through Belarus and the Baltic countries. The final leg of the journey has involved smuggling the Afghanis by boat from Estonia to Helsinki, where they have then filed for asylum.

According to police, the price paid to the smugglers for the trip from Afghanistan to Finland has been $10,000 per person.

Kronlund believes that the top-level operators in the gang are still at large. The same group is likely to have also smuggled Afghanis into other countries. Police in Estonia and Latvia are investigating similar cases.

Last year, 461 Afghanis applied for asylum in Finland. One year earlier, that number was 254, and in 2007 it was less than 100.