Supported and co–ordinated by Eurojust and Europol, early this morning, police officers in five countries took action against a number of sophisticated criminal networks involved in the smuggling of illegal immigrants, mainly of Vietnamese origin.
The countries involved in the operation were France (19 arrests), Germany (8), Czech Republic (2) and the UK (1). In total, 30 suspected criminal facilitators were arrested. Simultaneously, a similar action took place in Hungary; 5 suspects were arrested.
France took action to dismantle a transit camp used by immigrants at Grande–Synthe, close to Dunkerque; 38 immigrants (14 of Vietnamese and 17 of various other nationalities) were intercepted in this camp, where they all lived in cramped conditions.
Actions also took place in Lille, Paris, London, Prague, Berlin, Munich and Budapest, where several suspected safe houses and apartments were targeted. In France, an indoor cannabis cultivation farm was also discovered.
The criminal facilitators who were the target of today‘s operation offered their services to potential immigrants to travel illegally from Vietnam to the UK.
The modus operandi was to provide the illegal immigrants with false documents, fly them via Moscow, and then smuggle them onwards via trains, automobiles or concealed in lorries into the EU. For those who wanted to go to the UK, a group of Iraqi Kurdish criminal facilitators offered this service from Belgium and France to the UK for approximately € 2.000 to 3.000. They arranged that the immigrants could cross the English Channel in a van with hidden compartments, or concealed among commodities in lorries.
The criminal facilitators also used a more expensive method (€ 10.000 to 15.000 for guaranteed arrival), by obtaining via deceptive means Hungarian and Czech Schengen visas issued in Hanoi for business purposes. The immigrants were then able to take direct flights to Paris. The immigrants were accommodated in safe houses in Paris arranged by the criminal facilitators prior to the final leg of their journey to the UK. This was a sophisticated network with cells in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France, the UK and Vietnam.
At Eurojust, for the first time, a co–ordination centre was set up to facilitate the exchange in real time of information between Eurojust, France and the other countries involved. The case was initiated by the French magistrate of the JIRS of Lille and supported by the Eurojust Case Management Team.
The Europol Mobile Office was deployed on the spot in France and Germany during the operation and consisted of one illegal immigration specialist and one analyst at each location. Europol experts also provided technical expertise and operational analytical support throughout the investigation.