By Evie Andreou
A 39-year-old woman from Lebanon was remanded in Larnaca for five days on Wednesday for allegedly assisting refugees to travel illegally to European countries using Cyprus-issued travel papers.
The woman, who was arrested on Tuesday, reportedly admitted to having helped a 39-year old Palestinian and five minors to travel to other European countries for a fee.
She was allegedly arranging to travel on a number of occasions with the refugees to their chosen destinations by providing them with her husband’s or her children’s identification papers. The offences were committed between April 10, 2015 and January 2, 2016.
The case was uncovered this month when the woman and her underage daughter travelled with a 39-year-old man from Palestine to Warsaw, in Poland. The woman and her daughter presented their travel documents issued in Cyprus, at Larnaca airport.
The accompanying man presented the ID card belonging to the suspect’s husband but it raised suspicions because the photo on the document did not quite match his appearance. The woman, reports said, claimed he was her husband and the father of her daughter.
After successfully answering a number of questions about his identity, the three were allowed to depart for Warsaw, but after further investigations police discovered that even though the ID card provided by the 39-year-old man belonged to the husband of the suspect, he was in Cyprus during the trip.
Police alerted the Polish authorities, who stopped the three at the airport in Warsaw, where the man admitted his true identity. Two days later, after being sent back from Poland to Cyprus, the Palestinian man was arrested. He claimed the suspect offered to help him to reunite with his family in Germany for a €3,000 fee.
The suspect’s husband was also arrested but denied any involvement. The two men were remanded by the Larnaca district court for four and three days respectively on January 4.
An employee of a Nicosia travel agency told police that the suspect had on December 30 purchased two tickets, one for her and one for her daughter for Munich via Warsaw. Further investigations revealed that the 39-year-old woman had last year bought air tickets for her and her ‘children’ for various European countries.
The woman after she was arrested allegedly admitted to have agreed to assist, for a fee, the 39-year-old man and other five minors on various occasions to travel to other European destinations by providing them with her husband’s or of her underage children’s travel documents.
“She was charging €2,000 to €3,000 per person,” a source within the police told the Cyprus Mail. He added that this was the first time the police had come across such a case.
Commenting on how the woman was able to pass strangers off as her children, the source said that she was smart to pick people who resembled them and were around the same age.
The suspect, who was put on a stop list along with her daughter, faces charges for conspiracy to commit a felony, conspiracy to commit a misdemeanour, criminal impersonation and assisting illegal crossing.