Syrians Arrested in Argentina Tied to Smuggling Ring

Seven Syrians traveling under Greek passports have been arrested in Argentina, underscoring the need to address human smuggling and the availability of illegal documentation.

The Syrians were arrested in Buenos Aires in two operations on charges of document falsification, according to La Nacion. The individuals, who were allegedly carrying stolen Greek passports, stated that they were refugees from the internal conflict in Syria. At least two of the Syrians were headed towards Uruguay, reported La Nacion.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Smuggling

A federal judge has now ordered the capture of Ibrahim Dehioglu, a Turkish citizen who authorities believe assisted the Syrians in obtaining Greek passports and facilitating their movement through Argentina.

Authorities believe that the documents are connected to a criminal operation. A police official told La Nacion that those arrested were part of a “criminal organization dedicated to human trafficking and document falsification.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The movement of Syrian refugees has alerted terrorist watchers and governments around the region to the gaps and corruption in customs enforcement in Latin America and the Caribbean, but these gaps have existed for years.

As InSight Crime has noted, Colombian traffickers have long used Argentina as a point of respite and refuge, as well as a meeting area; these same Colombians often get fake passports there as well. 

The problem is not limited to Argentina. In 2013, the head of passports for Guatemala’s Department of Immigration was arrested on smuggling charges. Earlier this year, investigation into trafficking of Chinese workers to Brazil revealed corruption by immigration officials. In Bolivia, InSight Crime was offered a fake passport for $5,000, illustrating the ease with which false papers can be obtained in that Andean nation.

Human trafficking and smuggling have also fostered organized crime operations and official malfeasance in Colombia and Ecuador. Argentina is also a major hub for human trafficking where forced labor and sex work have led to the arrival of migrants from the Dominican Republic, China and other countries.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking

For these criminal networks, crisis is great for business, and the refugee crisis and growing global migration is fueling demand for illegal operations to provide false documentation and transport services.