40 Arrested in Massive Human Trafficking Raids across UK and EU
Police make arrests connected to smuggling f illegal immigrants
Police have arrested forty people in strategic raids across the UK and three European countries in connection with human trafficking of illegal immigrants.
13,000 people have crossed the Channel from France since the beginning of this year, with the monthly total for June at 3,136, the highest of the year.
In an operation coordinated by Eurojust, the European Union’s criminal justice cooperation agency, homes located in Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands were raided with more than 40 people arrested.
Eurojust is expected to reveal more about Operation Thoren at a press conference in The Hague later on Wednesday.
The Uk's National Crime Agency (NCA) launched its Operation Punjum, part of Operation Thoren, to bust an organized crime gang thought to have smuggled 10,000 people across the Channel this year.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“These arrests send a clear message to the criminal gangs who are preying on vulnerable people across Europe and beyond: we will stop at nothing to end your sordid trade, bring you to justice and save lives," Patel said.
"This hugely significant operation once again shows the NCA and our international partners working diligently to dismantle people-smuggling networks.”
In a statement, the NCA said:
"This is the biggest ever international operation targeting criminal networks suspected of using small boats to smuggle thousands of people into the UK.”
They said it was launched following the arrest of a people-trafficking “kingpin” in London in May this year.
Investigators found lifejackets piled up outside an address in the city of Osnabruck in Germany on July 5, 2022.
Iranian national, Hewa Rahimpur, 29, is now facing extradition to Belgium.
The NCA’s Director of Threat Leadership, Chris Farrimond, said:
“It was actually our intelligence which started this all off and which led to the culmination. Many of those arrested overseas have been targeted as a result of evidence that we provided into the taskforce.”
NCA officers also arrested a 26-year-old man in Catford, southeast London, along with a 22-year-old man on the Isle of Dogs in east London, on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration.
Another four arrests were made in the UK, two of which were illegal immigrants who had been handed over to the immigration authorities.
Germany’s DPA news agency reported prosecutors in Osnabruck oversaw raids involving 900 police officers at 36 properties in Lower Saxony, Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Baden-Wurttemberg, and 18 people were arrested.
Farrimond said the illegal immigrants were funding the gang around 3,000 euros (£2,570) each to smuggle them across the Channel to England.
He said Operation Punjum would not stop the flow of illegal immigrants to Britain but would “absolutely” make a difference.
“It will take some time for this group, or whichever group succeeds it, to recover. Now we’re not going to stop at this point."
"Ideally we’d like to stop the supply of small boats much earlier on so that they really have difficulty getting their hands on them, and we’d also like to attack the money flows in a lot more detail than we do right now," he added.
"So there’s plenty more to do. It’s not going to stop it but it is going to make a dent.”