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IMMIGRATION

Austrian police smash people smuggling gang

Austrian authorities said they had smashed a people smuggling gang on Thursday, which they believe has transported 1,800 migrants to Vienna since February.

Austrian police smash people smuggling gang
Migrants crammed into the back of a people smuggler's van. File photo: Police

The group was charging between €250 and €300 ($270-320) per person to bring them from Serbia and Hungary, raking in more than €500,000, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said.

A total of 17 people are under investigation, 11 of whom have been arrested.

Police have so far seized around €50,000 and have also impounded six vans used for transporting the migrants, each of which held between ten and 15 people.

The gang would also use another vehicle to go ahead of the vans to check the coast was clear, and had rented apartments in Vienna so drivers could rest between trips, said Franz Prucher, police chief in Lower Austria.

Austria has become a major transit route for hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees heading for northern Europe this year.

It stepped up checks for people-smugglers after the bodies of 71 migrants including four children were found in an abandoned truck on a motorway near Vienna in August.

“The smugglers will continue to keep us busy in the coming months,” Mikl-Leiter told a news conference, calling for the European Union to establish “legal routes to Europe”.

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Tell us: What was your experience like dealing with Vienna’s MA35?

The office for immigration and citizenship in Vienna is for many immigrants their first encounter with Austrian bureaucracy. We want to hear from you about your own experience dealing with officials and the process.

Tell us: What was your experience like dealing with Vienna's MA35?

Vienna’s MA35 is a well-known office for immigrants in Austria, particularly those who live in the capital. It has received plenty of criticism for long delays, mistakes and even mistreatment of those seeking services from renewing a visa to applying for Austrian citizenship.

Yet, it is an integral part of life for immigrants and their family members, as the office is responsible for residence permits (from visas to the Anmeldebescheiningung for EU citizens), naturalisation applications and more. In short: there is no escaping it.

So, we want to hear from you: What has been your experience and importantly do you have any advice for others?

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