Authorities have arrested two Syrian men on human trafficking charges for smuggling hundreds of refugees into the Netherlands from Austria, Greece and Hungary, a news agency in the Netherlands reported. Police took into custody a 35-year-old Syrian man, who is also a refugee and the prime suspect in the case, and his 26-year-old cousin, authorities have said.

The two men operated out of the Dutch city of Eindhoven, and were found by the Royal Marechaussee, a military police force in the Netherlands. The Dutch National Office of the Public Prosecutor, along with authorities in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and the European Police Office, headed the investigation, which has been going on for about a year.

The suspects are thought to have transported hundreds of refugees from Syria, with recent trips made on an almost a daily basis. While the conditions of the transportation were not immediately available, it is believed all the refugees made it through the trips alive. The prime suspect is believed to have earned between 60,000 and 120,000 euros from smuggling.

The suspects would have people working for them in Syria look for refugees in the war-torn country who wanted to leave for Europe, police said. These refugees would be gathered and taken to various points in Athens, Budapest, Milan and Vienna, where the two suspects would be waiting.

When a sizeable group was gathered, the 35-year-old prime suspect would be notified and he would send either a rental car or minivan to get the refugees. Police said the suspects used rentals so they couldn’t be as easily detected.


The refugees would be dropped off by Dutch drivers throughout the Netherlands, where some would stay. Some moved on to other countries such as Sweden and Denmark.

Europol is tracking about 30,000 people who they believe are smuggling refugees, taking advantage of the massive amounts of Syrians looking to escape their country. It is believed that more than 4 million Syrians have fled their country, first to neighboring countries in the Middle East then to Europe.