By Deirdre Tynan • 05 October 2021 • 13:04
Chile’s police have dismantled a crime group smuggling hundreds of children including toddlers.
Operation codenamed ‘Frontera Norte’, Chile’s Criminal Investigations Police (PDI) have arrested nine suspected members of a migrant smuggling ring following an investigation supported by INTERPOL and law enforcement across South and Central America.
The arrests took place on September 29 in the city of Arica, in northern Chile close to the Peruvian border. Those detained include four Chileans, two Venezuelans, one Peruvian, one Haitian and one Paraguayan, all of whom will face charges of unlawful association and migrant smuggling.
“It is horrifying to think what these vulnerable children, some just a few years old, have suffered,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “The diligence of the Chilean PDI in investigating and dismantling this network, with support from other involved countries via INTERPOL shows what law enforcement cooperation can achieve when information is shared.”
The ring is suspected of smuggling an estimated 1,000 Haitian migrants from Chile, with Mexico or the United States being the final intended destination.
To date, 267 Chilean children aged six or under – all children of Haitian migrants – have been detected on the irregular migration route to the United States in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama.
The investigation began in January 2020, as Chile’s PDI began to receive reports of an abnormal flow of Chilean children of Haitian migrants crossing the border to Peru. Soon, in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, border stations in Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama were reporting that large numbers of children of Chilean nationality were stranded, unable to continue their journey to the United States.
In the course of the PDI investigation, police identified a transnational criminal network dedicated to promoting and facilitating the irregular travel of Haitian migrants from Chile to the United States.
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Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.
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