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Group arrested in Poland is accused of multi-million-euro migrant trafficking operation

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By Rebekah Daunt  & TVP
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Group arrested in Poland is accused of multi-million-euro migrant trafficking operation
Copyright  Pavel Golovkin/AP

Polish border guards have detained several people accused of trafficking migrants from the Polish-Belarussian border towards western Europe.

They are said to have taken €3000 from each person they smuggled. The Polish Border Guard said many had no intentions of staying in Poland and were paying for the chance to move on further into the continent.

"In most cases, the people who cross the border do not want to stay in Poland,” said Anna Michalska, spokeswoman for the Polish Border Guard. “90 per cent of them want to go to other countries, mostly to Western European countries."

The accused so-called "couriers" are Polish, Georgian, Ukrainian, Syrian, and Tunisian nationals.

"Persons performing the function of cashiers in the group distributed a considerable amount for the group’s criminal activity -- €8,700,000,” said Artur Szykula, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. “Just the couriers themselves received over €4,300,000.”

Hundreds of migrants have left the area and returned to their countries of origin, but many continue to live in camps by the border.

The West accused Belarus of artificially creating the crisis by promising an easy crossing into the EU.

In December, the bloc adopted its fifth package of restrictive measures against the country -- whose president Alexander Lukashenka is a close ally of Russia and president Vladimir Putin -- "over continued human rights abuses and the instrumentalisation of migrants".

Lukashenko has denied the accusations and has instead criticised the union for not accepting the migrants.