Suspected small boat gang members ARRESTED in international smuggling bust

The two men are suspected of being members of an organised crime group operating between Belgium, France and the UK

Published Last updated

Two men suspected of organising small boat crossings have been arrested as part of a major international operation to curb immigration crime.

Home Office Immigration Enforcement officers, working in partnership with the Metropolitan Police, arrested two London-based suspects in a raid early this morning on behalf of the Belgian authorities.

The men, aged 29 and 42, were arrested on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration and were taken into police custody. Both are suspected of being members of an organised crime group operating between Belgium, France and the UK.

The operation was overseen by Europol, which also supported the development of the investigation. A linked suspect was arrested in France.

A group of people thought to be migrants
A group of people thought to be migrants
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said: “This operation shows our determination to dismantle the people-smuggling gangs that are orchestrating illegal immigration to the UK.

“Close intelligence cooperation with our European partners is vital to prevent illegal crossings and ensure those profiting from these dangerous journeys face the consequences of their despicable actions.”

Today’s arrests follow an international investigation conducted by UK authorities including the Home Office’s Criminal and Financial Investigations team and Home Office intelligence, in close cooperation with French and Belgian authorities.

Metropolitan Police officers are now beginning extradition proceedings for both suspects as part of a wider investigation.

Assistant Director, Immigration Enforcement Criminal & Financial Investigations, Stephen Blackwell, said: “Today’s arrests would not have been possible without strong cooperation with our UK and European partners.

“We are committed to disrupting the activity of people smugglers and will continue to work hard with our law enforcement partners across Europe to bring them to justice.”

40,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats so far this year. That compares to 28,526 who crossed in the whole of last year. Poor weather conditions have prevented any crossings for over a week, but UK authorities are braced for a further influx over the next few weeks as crime gangs continue to profit from the movement of migrants across the Channel.