Police in Britain have arrested an Albanian woman who is suspected of helping migrants to cross the English Channel by irregular routes. The UK is doubling down on its fight against illegal entries into the country.
The 31-year-old woman was arrested in Banbury, Oxfordshire on suspicion of facilitating irregular immigration in small boats. She has been taken into custody for questioning, according to the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA).
NCA Regional Head of Investigations Jacque Beer said in a statement: "This is a proactive investigation in response to intelligence that Albanian organized crime groups were acting as brokers, seeking to facilitate the illegal migration of Albanian nationals using established transportation networks."
"This is an international problem, with people smugglers also targeting other countries," added Beer.
The government agency meanwhile also shared video images from the operation on Twitter.
Purely a financial transaction
According to reports, authorities in the UK are presently targeting the largest single national group responsible for moving migrants across the English Channel.
"These criminal groups are transnational, making international law enforcement collaboration essential. We are targeting offenders who impact the UK at each stage of the journey – from source, in transit, to the destination," Beer stressed, adding that Channel crossings can be utterly perilous "which is why disrupting and dismantling criminal networks is a priority for the NCA and our partners."
"People smugglers only care about money, they don't care about migrants' safety or security."
Record arrival numbers
The UK meanwhile has pledged to speed up the removal of Albanian nationals who had illegally entered the country, as official statistics reveal that they are the largest single group embarking on small-boat crossings of the English Channel.
A total of 2,165 Albanians made the dangerous crossing from northern France to the UK during the first six months of 2022 alone — compared with 815 during the whole of 2021.
In total, about 37,570 migrants have reached the UK after crossing the Channel so far this year, with more than 500 migrants arriving on 12 boats on Tuesday alone. Earlier this month, more than 1,000 people crossed the Channel on a single day.
Heavy efforts across borders
Earlier in October, a joint operation between the NCA and Spanish Guardia Civil broke up a criminal gang suspected of smuggling Albanian migrants into Britain from Spain, usually hiding them as stowaway passengers aboard ferries and merchant ships in dangerous conditions.
The NCA said that seven suspects were arrested in that operation "after mainly Albanian migrants were moved through the northern (Spanish) cities of Bilbao and Santander into the UK using ferries and freight shipping routes to Portsmouth, Southampton and Liverpool."
That smuggling network reportedly organized accommodation and food for migrants until they were able to make their journey to Britain — on top of arranging their journeys. The NCA said that each migrant is believed to have paid between €3,000 and €15,000 to be smuggled to the UK this way.
The NCA says that it currently has more than 60 ongoing investigations "into networks or individuals in the top tier of organized immigration crime or human trafficking."
with NCA, AFP