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Nail bars raided across Spain for exploiting Vietnamese 

Police in Spain have broken up an international human trafficking gang which smuggled hundreds of Vietnamese citizens into Europe and forced them to work as manicurists in more than 100 salons to pay off their debts.

Arrests have been made across Spain, including on the Costa del Sol, Madrid and Barcelona, with 37 suspects being held for their part in an elaborate network believed to have netted more than 13 million euros this year alone.

The Vietnamese would travel first to South America posing as tourists and then on to Spanish airports where they asked for international protection, tearing their passports up on the flight. On many occasions, they would bring children with them but later escaped from custody centres.

The network was based in Barcelona and smuggled at least 730 Vietnamese into Spain, making them work in nail bars for up to 12 hours a day. They were charged around 18,000 euros each for the journey, mostly into Madrid and Barcelona airports, and given “humiliating” accommodation in crowded flats, often accessed via trap doors, and locked to prevent their escape. If they couldn’t pay, they would have to pay off the debt or land or property was seized in Vietnam.

Police say the gang had an in-depth knowledge of the Schengen legislation and “perfectly instructed their victims about all the steps to follow regarding routes through the intermediate countries and fictitious transit in Spain”.

The police operation was developed jointly in several Spanish provinces such as Seville, Granada, Murcia, Almeria, Cadiz, Malaga, Madrid, Valencia, San Sebastian, Gerona, Lleida, Tarragona, Leon, Huelva, Cordoba and Barcelona.

Ten raids were carried out in Barcelona, as well as more than 100 inspections in manicure centres run by Vietnamese citizens through-out Spain. In them 60,000 euros have been seized in cash, together with four vehicles, mass storage devices of information and diverse documentation.

Among those arrested is an official of the Office of Foreigners of Huelva, who provided the necessary documents.