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Arrests made in ‘biggest ever’ operation to tackle Channel people-smuggling

Military personnel tow a dinghy thought to be used by migrants in to Dover, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Military personnel tow a dinghy thought to be used by migrants in to Dover, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Police have made a series of arrests in what is believed to be the “biggest ever” international operation targeting criminal gangs suspected of people-smuggling across the Channel.

Officers arrested six men and a woman in the Docklands and Catford areas of London on Tuesday, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

Dozens of raids are also taking place in Germany, France and the Netherlands as part of a joint operation with Europol and Eurojust.

According to German media, some of those arrested there are believed to be part of a gang thought to have smuggled up to 10,000 people across the Channel in the last 12 to 18 months.

A 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration, in Rushey Green, Catford, as was a 22-year-old man in St Davids Square, on the Isle of Dogs, the NCA said.

A 20-year-old woman and 18-year-old man were detained on suspicion of possessing class A drugs with intent to supply, after a quantity of what is suspected to be cocaine was found.

They remain in custody and are being questioned by NCA investigators.

Two other men were arrested for immigration offences and will now be dealt with by the immigration authorities.

The NCA said: “Officers have today joined what is believed to be the biggest ever international operation targeting criminal networks suspected of using small boats to smuggle thousands of people into the UK.”

Prosecutors in the north-western city of Osnabruck were reportedly in charge of the German side of the operation.

Some 900 officers from the federal police and the Osnabruck police headquarters were involved in 36 searches of properties, with 18 people arrested in Lower Saxony, Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany’s press agency dpa said.

A press conference on the operations is being held by Eurojust – European Union’s agency for judicial co-operation in criminal matters – on Wednesday in The Hague in the Netherlands, dpa reported.

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