Suspected people smugglers arrested in dawns raids across UK

Four men have been arrested after a nationwide crackdown on a network suspected of smuggling migrants into the UK by air, land and sea.

Apr 18, 2024
By Paul Jacques

Home Office teams carried out dawn raids at addresses across the country on Wednesday (April 17), detaining the suspects for further questioning.

Addresses were targeted in Huddersfield, Middlesbrough, Southampton and Stockport as immigration enforcement officers swooped on figures involved with the prolific people smuggling network.

Those arrested are of British and Kurdish nationality, the Home Office said.

The men are believed to be responsible for dozens of attempts to bring people into the UK illegally, via commercial airline flights, hidden in cars and on ferries.

As many as 50 people are thought to have entered the UK illegally since 2022 via this criminal network. The migrants are predominantly Kurdish and Vietnamese nationals.

The group’s operations are believed to have spanned Europe, with smuggling attempts taking place across the UK’s borders with the Republic of Ireland and France.

“Intelligence suggests the suspects have been supplying and manufacturing false travel documents, including passports, national identity cards and blank visas,” said the Home Office. “It is believed they have been charging more than £1,000 per document.”

Minister for Countering Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson, said: “We’re working day and night to dismantle the criminal gangs who are trying to turn a profit by abusing our borders.

“These arrests make clear if you are involved in this kind of criminality, you can expect our teams to find you and bring you to justice – wherever you are in the UK.”

More than 10,500 enforcement visits took place in the first nine months of 2023 – up 53 per cent compared with the same period in 2022.

Last year alone, Home Office Immigration Enforcement secured the convictions of 141 people smugglers, including 80 people for piloting small boats.

Home Office Criminal and Financial Investigator, Paul Harvey, said: “This has been a large and well-planned operation executed across the entire country. We are working tirelessly to disrupt and dismantle the networks of criminals helping migrants to enter the UK illegally.

“I’m grateful to my team for their commitment and determination in this investigation. We will now work hard to ensure these suspects are put behind bars.”

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