European police arrest 130 people on suspicion of smuggling migrants into the UK

Police across Europe have arrested more than 130 suspected migrant smugglers in what has been described as the largest international operation of its kind in history.

The suspects are accused of transporting thousands of people across the English Channel to the UK in small boats.

British National Crime Agency said six people were arrested in London’s Docklands and Catford areas. Dozens of raids also took place in Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The French judiciary said the European-wide operation was directed against a “major organized crime group”.

Police in the German city of Osnabrück said 18 people were arrested in the northwest and southwest of Germany on suspicion of involvement after more than 900 police conducted 36 searches.

Europol stated in statement that law enforcement officials identified “about 130 potential victims” of migrant smuggling, including more than 10 children, during the operation.

“Many are victims of sexual exploitation, forced begging or various types of violent crime, including petty crime and drug trafficking. They are also victims of labor exploitation and domestic slavery.”

“More than 22,480 law enforcement officers took part in the action. [joint] Days of Action, during which checks were carried out at the sea, land and air borders of Europe, with an additional focus on heavily used routes to Europe,” Europol added.

More than 28,000 migrants crossed the English Channel to the UK last year, up from 8,500 in 2020.