Six arrested in 'biggest-ever' bust targeting rings smuggling migrants across Channel from France

July 05, 2022

Six suspects have been arrested in what is believed to be the "biggest-ever" international operation targeting alleged people-smuggling gangs using small boats to cross the Channel.

Five men and one woman were detained after a series of raids by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the Docklands and Catford areas of London, on Tuesday morning.

Officers also swooped in Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands in a joint operation with Europol and Eurojust.

A 26-year-old man in Rushey Green in Catford, southeast London, and a 22-year-old man in the Isle of Dogs were both held on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration.

A woman aged 20 and an 18-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of possessing class A drugs with intent to supply after a quantity of what is believed to be cocaine was unearthed.

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

The suspects in the UK remain in custody and are being questioned by NCA investigators.

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."

On Monday a young girl was carried to safety by a member of the armed forces after arriving on the Kent coast.

A woman was also seen being helped ashore and pushed away in a wheelchair in Dover.

So far around 12,700 people have made the perilous Channel crossing this year, navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats.

The Home Office announced plans to send some people who make the crossing illegally to Rwanda for processing in April, but the first deportation flight was cancelled last month after a series of legal challenges.

Critics say the policy is "immoral", but ministers say it is needed to break the business model of people smugglers.

Read more:
Small boat pilots crossing Channel with migrants to face life in prison
Asylum seeker who fled war says he would rather die than be sent to Rwanda

More than 3,100 people crossed the Channel to the UK in June, the highest monthly total this year, according to government figures.

The NCA has vowed to pursue people smugglers after making 15 arrests over the deaths of 27 people who perished crossing the Channel last year.

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