Albanian people trafficker arrested in UK

National Crime Agency says people smugglers care only about money

A ship arrives in Dover carrying migrants picked up in the English Channel. AFP
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An Albanian woman has been arrested on charges of helping to traffic migrants across the English Channel.

The woman, 31, is part of an organised crime gang preying on vulnerable people in Albania and transporting them to the UK via the dangerous English Channel route, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

More than 37,000 people have arrived in England via the Channel route so far this year, provisional UK government data indicates.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), which is involved in many of the rescues, says desperate mothers throw their babies at volunteer rescuers when they are picked up partway across the Channel.

The suspect was arrested on Wednesday by officers acting on information that “Albanian organised crime groups were acting as brokers, seeking to facilitate the illegal migration of Albanian nationals”.

“People smugglers only care about money, they don't care about migrants' safety or security,” said Jacque Beer, NCA regional head of investigations.

“Channel crossings are utterly perilous, which is why disrupting and dismantling criminal networks is a priority.”

Official statistics show that Albanians are now the largest single group making small-boat crossings of the Channel.

A total of 2,165 Albanians made the dangerous crossing from northern France during the first six months of 2022, compared with 815 during the whole of 2021.

The UK has promised to speed up the removal of Albanians illegally entering the country, although the route is also used by refugees from many of the world’s trouble spots.

Government figures show 502 migrants arrived in the UK on 12 boats after crossing the Channel on Tuesday, taking the provisional total for the year so far to 37,570.

There were 299 people who made the journey in 2018. The next year, 1,843 crossings were recorded, followed by 8,466 in 2020 and 28,526 in 2021.

Research shows that each rescue is more likely to involve a higher number of migrants crossing the water separating England and France

In 2018, there were usually fewer than 10 migrants per boat, while in 2019 and 2020 the average was in the high teens. In 2021, the average increased further, reaching 20 in March and 30 by August. It reached 40 per boat in June this year, then 46 last month.

Two weeks ago, Spanish police broke up a gang suspected of smuggling Albanian migrants, including children, into Britain, hidden as stowaways in dangerous conditions aboard ferries and merchant ships.

The smuggling network provided migrants with accommodation and food until they made the journey to Britain.

Updated: October 19, 2022, 3:32 PM