Thirty-six Arrested in Middle Eastern Smuggling Bust
Police in France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium, in coordination with Europol and Eurojust, dismantled an organized criminal network smuggling Middle Eastern nationals on Wednesday, according to a Europol press release. Europol and Eurojust provided logistical and organizational support, as well as real-time intelligence analysis.
Thirty-six people were arrested. In addition, two European arrest warrants were issued and 45 premises were searched. The French Border Police PAF, Belgian Federal Police of Brussels, Federal Police of Brugge, local police from Vilvoorde and Mons, and the UK Border Agency conducted operations in their respective nations.
The illegal immigrants were put on trucks in Belgium and France that transported them to the Calais-UK ferry. An estimated 4,000 illegals were trafficked into the UK annually via the targeted network.
The French Judicial Police opened the first investigation into the crime syndicate in February 2012, leading to further investigations by Belgian and UK authorities. The human trafficking network was based in France and Belgium, with its base of operations shifting between the two European nations. The Europol press release stated that the traffickers employed a “highly sophisticated and complex logistical organization” that had ties to both Greece and the Netherlands.
Eurojust was instrumental in the coordination of the multilateral investigation, co-funding a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) comprising French and Belgian law enforcement beginning in October 2012. The UK joined the JIT on February 4, 2013.