Spanish authorities have arrested five members of a gang accused of kidnapping migrant children from shelter homes and demanding ransoms from their families in Morocco.
In raids on two properties in Puerto Real, a town in Spain’s southernmost province of Cadiz, the Guardia Civil found a Moroccan youth reported missing from a nearby migrant centre.
Authorities believe the gang may have carried out as many as 20 kidnappings in total.
Its members – three Spanish citizens and two Moroccans, aged 27 to 36 – allegedly approached minors when they were allowed out of their shelters during the day and offered to help them gain residency permits.
Instead, the boys were held prisoner in filthy conditions before being bused to safe-houses across the country, according to another Moroccan boy snatched from a centre for unaccompanied migrant minors in the town of La Linea de La Concepcion.
From these locations members of the organisation would call relatives in Morocco and demand ransoms of between €400 and €500.
Also found in the raids were three kilograms of hashish, 10 mobile phones, three computers and €3,600 in cash.
Last May Spanish police arrested a gang of Moroccans in Algeciras, allegedly responsible for the kidnapping of migrants from Africa just as they landed on Spanish soil in small boats.
The five men were accused of stealing the migrants’ cellphones and demanding ransoms of up to €2,000 from relatives on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar.