Earlier in September, the AIRCOP Joint Airport Interdiction Task Force (JAITF) at Punta Cana International Airport, intercepted three Dominican nationals travelling with fraudulent Guatemalan documents, with final destination Tel Aviv. The detection of these high-risk passengers is the result of a long-term investigation carried out by the Punta Cana AIRCOP task force, in collaboration with the Spanish National Police. This interception led to the disruption of an important migrant smuggling network which had been operating in the country for many years.
An initial alert was raised by airlines operating at Punta Cana International Airport, which identified a large number of Dominican nationals using air routes to reach European countries, primarily Spain or the Netherlands, by booking flights to destinations for which no visas are required, such as Israel or Turkey, with a stopover in Europe. While transiting through Europe passengers would use fraudulent or altered travel documents and if uncovered by law enforcement, would immediately apply for asylum. Only in November last year, 34 Dominicans arrived to Barcelona and applied for asylum on different grounds, and 10 people were stopped in Punta Cana as they were trying to travel on the same route.
In line with AIRCOP recommendations and in coordination with the Dominican Immigration Department, different airlines took preventative measures to counter this suspicious travel pattern. In particular, the airline covering the Punta Cana-Barcelona had stopped issuing tickets with final destination Tel-Aviv.
The AIRCOP JAITF in Punta Cana joined forces with LEVEL-Iberia, the Immigration Department and the Corporación Aeroportuaria del Este, S.A. (CAE) to take coordinated action against the organization that was responsible for planning these trips. It uncovered a network working with employees who provided services to LEVEL-Iberia and resulted in their dismissal.
Other airlines are increasingly being used as alternatives on the route Punta Cana – Madrid – Tel-Aviv, with several travellers using the same modus operandi and usurped or false documents of different nationalities. Thanks to the meticulous job of the JAITF of Punta Cana the Dominican Immigration Department, has uncovered evidence of such illegal activities and has taken measures to disrupt this network of migrant smugglers.