Albanian people-smuggling suspect arrested in UK

The 30-year-old man was detained following an early-morning raid in London

Migrants board an inflatable dinghy as they leave the coast of northern France to cross the English Channel. Reuters
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A man suspected of smuggling migrants across the English Channel in small boats has been arrested in London.

The Albanian aged 30 was detained by officers in an early-morning raid on Friday in Surbiton, in the south-west of the city, the National Crime Agency said.

He is believed to be a member of an Albanian gang that ferries migrants from France to the UK.

The man was being questioned. Cash and a tablet computer, seized during a search of his home, were also being examined, authorities said.

Jacque Beer, the NCA's regional head of investigation, said: "Attempts to reach the UK by small boat are incredibly dangerous, and we know a high percentage are facilitated by organised criminal networks of varying sophistication.

"These networks do not care about the safety or security of those they transport, they seek to exploit them for profit.

"The danger they pose means tackling them remains a priority for the NCA.

"We believe today's operation will have disrupted the activity of one such network, and our investigation continues."

Officials believe up to 60 per cent of migrants making the crossing each day now are Albanian.

The problem is understood to be fuelled by poverty in the country.

Adverts promoting cut-price deals on the back of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral appeared on TikTok in September, offering migrants who wanted “to take part in the funeral of this lady” a chance to do so for £1,600 ($1,873) per person.

That was about half what the gangs typically charge for the 33-kilometre journey.

The gangs frequently promote special deals to entice people to make the perilous journey.

They include child travel free offers — and even free minibus rides from southern Europe to English Channel crossing points.

Previous TikTok videos have claimed the service was “100 per cent secure”.

Would-be migrants are driven by minibus to northern France. They are met by largely Iraqi-Kurdish groups, who then send the migrants across the Channel in small boats, according to the adverts.

The gangs typically charge migrants between £2,500 and £5,000 a person.

Updated: October 07, 2022, 11:59 AM