People smugglers arrested as more than 1,000 migrants cross Channel in a week

UK registers seventh consecutive day of attempted crossings

People thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, having been intercepted trying to cross the Channel in small boats. PA
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Members of people-smuggling gang who trafficked almost 700 migrants to the European Union from Iraq and Syria have been arrested in a series of raids across Europe.

Europe's crime agency Europol arrested 11 people in Germany, Poland and Lithuania.

The raids came at the end of a week in which more than 1,000 migrants have crossed the Channel illegally to Britain.

The migrants had been charged between €10,000 to €13,000 ($10,042- $13,055) for the smuggling service from their country of origin, via Belarus, to Germany.

The operation is estimated to have generated turnover of at least €7 million for the criminal network.

"The police investigation detected 99 incidents of the illegal transportation of migrants and discovered 662 migrants have been smuggled by the network," Europol said.

"The same criminal network had previously taken a hit in January 2022, when Polish authorities arrested 20 suspects and seized more than the equivalent of €500,000 cash in euros and dollars.

"The criminal group consisted of Syrian and Turkish nationals. They recruited the migrants from Iraq and arranged their transportation from Iraq into the EU.

"The members of the criminal network were based in and acting from the countries across the smuggling route. Their tasks were divided hierarchically, with the majority of the individuals acting at different levels, not knowing each other personally."

The criminal network used Turkey as a transit country and logistical centre.

Many migrants attempt to cross the Channel from continental Europe to Britain. AP

Once in Turkey, the migrants travelled legally to Moscow with tourist visas, from where they were transferred to the Belarusian capital Minsk or to Grodno, a city near the border with Lithuania and Poland.

From there, the migrants were smuggled through Poland and Lithuania to Germany.

"For the final transfer towards the EU, the criminal network recruited drivers, mainly Ukrainian nationals, via web forums and social media platforms," Europol said.

"For their services on this last leg of the smuggling route, from Poland to Germany, they charged between €500 and €1,000 per person.

"The criminal network often transported the migrants in life-threatening conditions, such as overcrowded vehicles and even closed cars on loading platforms.

"In October 2021, German authorities found the body of a migrant close to the border. The forensic examination suggested that the smugglers had abandoned him in an empty field after suffering bad health conditions, where he then died of multiple organ failure."

The raids took place at 28 locations in Germany, Lithuania and Poland and led to 44 migrants, all of whom were Iraqi citizens, being discovered.

Over the past seven days more than 1,000 people have arrived in the UK via the English Channel.

It is the joint second-longest successive run of crossings in 2022 so far, with a nine-day stretch recorded between April 11 and April 19, during which 2,143 people arrived.

There was another seven-day stretch between June 12 and June 18 when 1,623 people were known to have made the crossing.

Several girls were among the latest groups of people brought ashore at Dover, Kent, in warm weather and calm seas.

An official total of 14,157 migrants have made the crossing to the UK in 2022 so far, after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats such as dinghies, provisional government figures indicate.

The government's plan to send migrants to Rwanda has been shelved until the Conservative Party elects a new prime minister, over fears it could generate too much controversy during the leadership contest.

A plane to take the first migrants to the African nation was grounded in June due to legal challenges.

Updated: July 15, 2022, 10:01 AM