Four people have been arrested today (28 February) as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into a group alleged to have smuggled migrants to the UK in boats from Belgium.

Two Albanian nationals, aged 44 and 48, in Nottingham and a 46-year-old Irish man in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, were arrested by NCA officers this morning (Tuesday 28 February).

Belgium to Margate

Investigators allege they have been involved in acquiring a rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) and using it to travel to Belgium to collect migrants, landing at Margate in Kent.

A 51-year-old man from Albania was also arrested in Hove this morning for his suspected role in assisting unlawful immigration.

The men are all alleged to be part of a gang organising a series of people smuggling runs to the UK from Europe, including a number of crossing events last year.

Today’s operation is linked to two arrests in Belgium on Sunday 30 October 2022, where a man from Basingstoke and a man from Leicester were arrested on suspicion of people smuggling offences as they arrived on the coast near Nieuwpoort at 4.30am.

Twelve migrants, including a child, all believed to be Albanian nationals, were also taken into custody by the Belgian authorities.

NCA Branch Commander Colin Williams said: “These arrests follow an extensive investigation into individuals who we  believe were involved in a number of migrant crossings from Belgium to the Kent coast in 2022.

“Tackling people smuggling continues to be a priority for the NCA as we target and disrupt organised crime groups at every step of the route.”

By Ed

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