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Saturday, June 3, 2023

(PHOTO) Talks between two potential migrant smugglers – it is a process of smuggling illegals with the help of tourist visas and abuse of consular assistance?

By Sara Kovač

 The smuggling of migrants, which often hides behind slogans about philanthropy, is not diminishing. For such an activity, however, even the well-intentioned assistance of diplomatic representatives could be abused. In the attached conversation between the alleged smugglers, a website with Slovenian tourist agencies is also listed. For one of them, there is a suspicion that someone is trying to abuse it for this kind of dishonest business. At the beginning of the conversation, offering thousands to obtain visas seems particularly interesting. The affair degenerates into two-reseller-style bribery in an oriental bazaar, which could also be the result of a cultural background rather than necessarily bad intentions. The “tourist” offer as a way of smuggling illegals is nothing new. We have already reported the smuggling of “well-educated” migrants with the help of luxury yachts and limousines. Of particular interest is the fact that no name of the alleged Slovenian Tour operator has been given. However, care must be taken: It may have just been a very general demand for a tourist trip.

We are enclosing a recording of what the (alleged) conversation between traffickers in “white goods” looks like, or how “humanitarian” (read: profitable) assistance to migrants making their way to the European West could take place. The conversation initially begins with negotiating the price of visas, as it shows for a certain group of people. It continues to require one party to prepare the relevant documents for the group of persons and the visas to be obtained at the consular post. One of the actors even offers the other a contact via WhatsApp of a Slovenian consulate in France with the information that the consul could help obtain visas.

One of the speakers, however, seems to want to protect himself with the question “is there anything illegal in the business”, as he “does not want to smuggle people”. The other assures him that there is nothing illegal. In the following, we can read about the agreement on the route plan of (alleged) travellers that the actors want to bring to Slovenia and some more details about the suspicious venture. There is even a contact of the consular post in the text, which we covered up. In the last part of the conversation, however, we learn that one of the actors is in fact a member of non-governmental organisations (allegedly travel agencies). The consul’s name also appears.

We also contacted the consul in question for an opinion on the conversation, who gave us the following answer: “You really shocked me with your e-mail that it may be a case of smuggling migrants…. I looked at the attachment you sent me… I do not know who answered these questions…. I personally certainly did not…. The only contact with this gentleman I attached to you in my emails I just sent you…. For my part, it is only advice and information on where in Algeria they can apply for a Slovenian visa… I do not know how they could use this advice to smuggle migrants… I will listen to your advice on what I can do now…”

“Thank you for your message which really did not surprise me, as it is probably my answer I sent to this gentleman XXX XXXX, where in Algeria they can apply for a visa to come to Slovenia… Below I am attaching his mail… It also seemed strange to me that this is a Slovenian Tour operator that does not have this information, which I also told them in my answer, which I can send you later. It is true that we have a lot of such demands and in the twenty years of activity of our consulate, we have not had any problem yet. Yesterday I came to XXXXX where I also have a residence and I will be grateful if you can contact me on my Slovenian mobile phone XXXXXXXXX so that we can check together if this is the case… Thank you in advance for your warning.”

“As suggested by me, I am delivering my answer to the request XXXX XXXX regarding the issuance of Slovenian visas in Algeria below …. As you can see, it also seemed strange to me that this was a Slovenian Tour operator, which is why I answered them in Slovenian…. Without any other information than addresses where they can apply for a Slovenian visa….”.

“Dear Madame, we are Slovenian tour operator. We have 10 pax, Algerian who would like to arrive for their holidays in Slovenia for 10 days in June or July. We will organise them hotels, transfers, local english/french speaking guide etc. They are concerning if they get visas for a short visit? Please let me know if they fullfilled all requirements needed, will they get visas or no? Probleme is that we have to book flight tickets soon, also make a hotel resevations etc .. And all these documents are required for granted a visa… So if they will book, they have to pay in advance, so that is my concern. That they will pay than wont get visa? I am waiting for your soon replay, Best regards,”

“Dear! Although you did not deliver any name of your Slovenian Tour operator, I am still answering that Algerians need Schengen Visa to enter Slovenia, which they can get through Austrian VFS Global in Algeria (they have one center in Algiers and the other in Oran). You can see everything on the site: VFS Global, where you will find the entire procedure for issuing visas to enter Slovenia. However, although I cannot help you with your request regarding Algeria, it would be good if you could provide us with more information from your Tour operator, as we have a lot of requests here in France to organise a visit to our Slovenia…”


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