Tuesday, May 28

Dawn raid on 21 people traffickers



Investigators have smashed an organised crime gang smuggling hundreds of illegal immigrants a year into the UK.

Twenty-one suspects were arrested in a wave of early morning raids across Cleveland in the North East, London and East Sussex.

The gang is believed to have charged immigrants up to 10,000 euros to be hidden in trucks and brought across the English Channel.

Most of the trafficked immigrants are Iraqi Kurds, mostly men but some families have also been brought into Britain.

Among those arrested were two men suspected of being organisers of the gang, which has been operating in France, Belgium and Holland.

More than 350 police officers were involved in the raids co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency after a year-long investigation.

Investigators were also raiding car wash premises thought to have been used for laundering cash from the smuggling operation.

They were also being checked by other agencies for potential immigration offences and health and safety breaches.

Many of the illegal immigrants are thought to have travelled through Turkey before crossing the Mediterranean Sea, a waterway thought to have been used by a million migrants in 2015, according to the NCA.

The north east gang is believed to have sent drivers to the continent to pick up the immigrants, often arranging to meet them in Belgium and Holland to avoid heavy policing at French ports such as Calais and Dunkirk.

Some immigrants are simply hidden under tarpaulins in the back of lorries, others are secreted inside empty tankers.

The gang is not suspected of using immigrants as slaves, poorly-paid workers or in the sex trade.