With the support of Europol, French law enforcement authorities* have arrested 10 individuals suspected of smuggling Albanian nationals into the United Kingdom. Among those arrested on 17 June were the main suspects of an organised crime network, including their Albanian leader. Firearms, mobile phones and a quantity of cocaine were seized in house searches in France.
The network recruited potential migrants in Albania who, after their arrival in France, were housed in hotels near the Brittany coast. French skippers were recruited to transport the migrants in rented sailing yachts across the channel to the United Kingdom. The main suspects earned several thousand euros per transported migrant. Upon arrival in the UK, some of the migrants claimed asylum to legalise their stay. Smuggling incidents involving an estimated 200 migrants have been linked to the network in the past two years.
Investigators and judges from France and the United Kingdom cooperated in a joint investigation team (JIT) to facilitate international cooperation and information exchange. The JIT was supported by Europol and Eurojust. On the action day Europol deployed a mobile office to France to support the operation with on-the-spot intelligence analysis. Throughout the investigation, Europol also facilitated the exchange of intelligence, hosted several operational meetings, and provided tailored analytical support to the investigators.
* Brigade Mobile de recherche de la Direction Départementale de la Police aux frontières de la Manche; Section de recherches de la gendarmerie maritime, du groupement de gendarmerie maritime de la Manche Mer du Nord.