Human smuggling is a big business in Athens and CBS News has found evidence that ISIS members are being moved through Greece to the rest of Europe.
In central Athens, an area around Omonia Square is notorious as a center of criminal activity where human smuggling gangs operate. Filming with a hidden camera, CBS News set up a meeting with Alrayes. He comes from North Africa and runs a smuggling syndicate, moving people from Athens to western Europe for around $8,000 each.
“‘From Athens, you go [to] Italy, you arrive there in Italy. I have people will help you with everything. It’s very easy,” he said.
His usual customers are migrants and refugees. Hundreds of thousands have come to Greece from the Middle East, many making the dangerous crossing by boat. They’re dreaming of a better life in western Europe, and Alrayes and other smugglers can get them there.
I posed not as a refugee, but as an ISIS wife, who wanted safe passage to Germany. “No problem,” Alrayes said. In fact, he said, he’s moved other ISIS members before.
He even bragged that he’d smuggled three brothers of notorious al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a claim CBS News cannot confirm.
The smugglers use stolen identity documents. CBS News went undercover again, this time posing as smugglers, and found criminals with hundreds of them for sale in Athens, including U.S. passports. They try to match their customers with an ID photo they resemble.
Then the smugglers use the stolen documents to fly people from Athens to Spain or Italy, where they claim security is lax. From there, they can travel anywhere in western Europe with no border checks.
The Greek police are targeting human smugglers and have made arrests. But Several members of the ISIS terror cell that carried out attacks in France and Belgium came through Greece. There are fears that criminals like Alrayes have already helped ISIS sleeper cells make their into way to Europe.
By HOLLY WILLIAMS CBS NEWS