Two men suspected of belonging to a migrant smuggling network were arrested by the UK’s National Crime Agency last Tuesday in Lewisham and Essex.
Admir Canaj, 38, and Astrit Ramoshi, 37, both Albanian nationals, were accused of leading the UK branch of the network. Detained under European Arrest Warrants, the two suspects are now awaiting extradition to face charges in Belgium.
The arrests, which were announced by the Belgian police on Friday, were part of a joint investigation by the Belgian Federal Agency and the UK National Crime Agency.
The raids, which took place across Belgium, Germany and the UK, were triggered by the arrest of the suspected ringleader in the Belgian city of Ghent on Monday 23. Another 13 arrests were made in connection to the smuggling gang between Monday and Wednesday.
Officers believe the smugglers were using a hotel in Ghent and lorries with hidden compartments to transport the migrants into the UK.
37 Albanians suspected of wanting to cross the Channel were found at a hotel following the operation. Migrants were asked to pay up to €15,000 (approximately £13,200) for safe passage.
Steve Reynolds, head of organised immigration crime operations for the NCA, said:
“This operation involved simultaneous raids by the NCA in the UK and the Belgian Federal Police.
“Those arrested in the UK now face extradition to Belgium, and we will continue to assist our Belgian colleagues in their investigations.
“People smugglers treat people as a commodity to be exploited and profited from, and we are determined to tackle those networks targeting the UK no matter where they operate. This is another example of that.”