Hairdressers on Canary Islands leaders of human trafficking mafia

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Couple on Canary Islands arrested for human trafficking

GRAN CANARIA – Spanish police arrest a couple on Gran Canaria suspected of running a human trafficking network. The network transported migrants from the Canary Islands to mainland Spain and other EU countries.

It concerns a Moroccan couple who ran a hairdressing salon in the harbour town of Arguineguín on the Canary Islands for a number of years. In addition to these two mafia leaders, police arrested a total of 45 people: 26 on the Canary Islands and another 17 gang members on the Spanish mainland.

This is the result of a fourth major European police investigation into human trafficking that started last December. The Spanish police discovered the mafia was not operating from Morocco, but from Spain itself. The criminals used drug network routes to transport migrants to the Canary Islands and to the Spanish mainland. 

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime define human trafficking as: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.”

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Collaboration with travel agency for crossing

With the arrival of 23,000 Moroccan migrants in 2020 and another 4,000 in 2021, the hairdresser couple saw an opportunity to set up a more lucrative trade than cutting hair. The migrants paid between €1,500 and €2,000 for their crossing. In collaboration with a travel agency, the migrants were provided with passports. Then they planned the trips by plane or boat to the European mainland. A gang member always travelled with them. They then took the passports back with them upon arrival and used them for the next group of migrants. The police also arrested the operators of the travel agency.

Low penalties

According to the police, the closure of human trafficking networks is a complex matter. There are many things to be linked and a lot of evidence to be found. Plus, criminals are usually quick to flee from the police. The relatively low prison sentence of a maximum of two to four years creates a certain feeling of impunity among the human trafficking mafia.

A stabbing in which a young Moroccan was the victim last October because he had not yet paid the money for his crossing, led to the dismantling of the criminal gang Campos Gallego. They used drug boats to transport migrants from Ceuta to the mainland. The driver of the boat shipwrecked on February 7 was the suspected perpetrator of the stabbing. A gang member and three migrants were killed in the shipwreck.

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