Europol dismantles a network of migrants transported in inflatable boats to the United Kingdom | International
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An international operation carried out against the smuggling of migrants transported to the United Kingdom through the English Channel has managed to dismantle an Iraqi-Kurdish criminal network specialized in the use of small inflatable boats. The police of France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have also collaborated in the investigation, and this July 5, 39 suspects were arrested with the help of 900 agents from the five countries involved. The criminal group has been able to illegally introduce up to 10,000 people into British territory in the last year and a half, and charged between 2,500 and 3,500 euros per head. At the time of crossing, there could be up to 15 rafts in the water at one time; half managed to win the coast. The benefits for the network were about 15 million euros.
“This is the largest operation of its kind carried out against people smuggling across the English Channel, particularly in small boats,” said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, deputy executive director of Europol, the agency of the European Union for police cooperation. His experts have collaborated with Eurojust —the judicial cooperation agency—, both based in the Netherlands. According to their data, 1,200 life jackets, some 150 boats, about 50 motors and 40,000 euros in cash have been seized.
Every year, thousands of migrants from countries such as Iran and Iraq try to cross the English Channel to the United Kingdom and, according to Eurojust, “there is rivalry for control of the lucrative business of trafficking and for the exit of inflatable rafts , and this has resulted in two assassination attempts within the criminal organization.” Both took place in France and Germany. In Belgium, several of the uncovered trafficking cases showed common ties and a separate file was opened to dismantle a criminal network in charge of the supply chain. This Tuesday, there were six arrests in two London districts on suspicion that those involved “conspired to facilitate illegal immigration.”
The investigation began in November 2021 with the arrest of 16 people by the French police. “This facilitated the pointing out of several members of the network, suspected, among others, of trafficking migrants from Vietnam, who were transferred from France to the United Kingdom in motorboats.” To do this, they had a support infrastructure in the Gallic port of Calais, while the rubber boats were taken from China to Germany, and then to France.
The smuggling of migrants with small boats has been increasing since shortly before the pandemic and Eurojust considers it one of the most dangerous routes. For its part, Europol indicates that between January and December 2020 there were more than 1,300 attempts to reach the UK from the EU in this way by more than 15,000 migrants. In its 2022 annual report, the agency indicates that this system exceeded the use of trucks loaded with people on the same route in 2021. By the end of last year, “close to 50,000 migrants attempted to cross the English Channel by boat, three times more than in 2020.” In the first half of 2022, “about 11,500” irregular migrants managed to reach the United Kingdom, generating with their payments “a profit of about 30 million euros for criminal organizations operating along the route”, continues the police agency . In the opinion of Matt Rivers, a member of the British National Crime Agency, given the number of boats seized in the current operation, “we can expect a reduction in the number of attempts to cross the English Channel in the short term.”
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The UK intends to transfer irregular asylum seekers who cross the channel to Rwanda. Last month, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained ready to carry out its plans, despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has already issued an order to prevent the deportation of one of the migrants, of Iraqi nationality. At the moment, the agreement with Rwanda has an endowment of 120 million pounds (about 144 million euros) and points to men without family responsibilities arriving by boat or truck. NGOs specialized in human rights maintain that the United Kingdom violates its own responsibility in terms of protection by agreeing with a third country other than the one of origin of the migrants.
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