National Crime Agency (NCA) officers have arrested three alleged members of an Albanian organised crime group bringing migrants to the UK in small boats and HGVs.
The arrests were made following a NCA operation that began in August 2022, when a small boat with 46 migrants on board was intercepted in British waters.
NCA investigators believe the group have facilitated the illegal entry of numerous migrants, charging between £2,500 and £7,500 each time.
One of those attempting to make the crossing was a convicted rapist who had previously been deported from the UK and has now been deported again.
The lorry is alleged to have travelled from Coquelles, France, on three further occasions is believed to be linked to the group involving an HGV stopping at service stations in Cobham and Thurrock to drop off migrants were identified by NCA officers in October and November 2022.
The HGV driver, a 55-year-old man from Belgium, was arrested when his lorry was stopped in Folkestone today.
Two other men were arrested on suspicion of unlawful entry to the UK at an address in North London.
All of those arrested remain in custody to be questioned by NCA officers.
The NCA’s Head of Migrant Smuggling Operations, Chris Farrimond, said: “This is a significant operation that has resulted in the arrest of three alleged members of a criminal group who were facilitating the illegal entry of migrants into the UK.
“We will continue to work with our partners to disrupt and dismantle these networks and bring those responsible to justice.”
The arrests come as the UK government faces increasing pressure to tackle the issue of illegal immigration.
In recent months, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats.
The government has pledged to make it more difficult for people to enter the UK illegally, but it remains to be seen whether these measures will be effective.
In the meantime, the NCA’s work to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks like this one is essential in protecting the UK’s borders.
Chris Farrimond, Director of Threat Leadership at the NCA, said: “We have dismantled a suspected organised crime group behind a number of dangerous migrant crossings last year.
“People smugglers do not care about the safety of those they transport, they seek to exploit them for profit.
“Tackling organised immigration crime is a priority for the NCA and we have more than 90 ongoing investigations into networks based here and overseas causing the highest harm. As we target callous organised criminal gangs, we will not hesitate to also pursue HGV drivers complicit in helping them.”Chris Farrimond, Director of Threat Leadership
via twitter: Border Force Vessel DEFENDER has just returned to DOVER after picking up its first boat load of illegal migrants
The French WARSHIP escorted the migrants towards ENGLAND
This is NOT a rescue operation. This is an INVASION