Yorkshireman held as European raids target people-smugglers

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A LEEDS man was among 23 people arrested as part of police efforts to smash an international criminal network suspected of smuggling thousands of illegal immigrants into Europe.
Simultaneous dawn raids in England and Scotland led to five arrests, with a further 18 suspects held in other European countries – 13 in France, one in Italy, two in Greece and two in the Netherlands, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) said.

A number of illegal immigrants were also detained, six of them in the UK.

Soca said Iraqi Kurdish and Afghan people smugglers were the focus of the investigation, which was led by the French Central Office for the Repression of Illegal Immigration and Employment of Foreigners without Residence Permits (OCRIEST).

It was supported by numerous law enforcement agencies, as well as Europol.

The criminal network is believed to have smuggled about 2,000 illegal immigrants, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan, into and through Europe to destinations including the UK, Soca said.

Soca executed five European arrest warrants on behalf of the OCRIEST.

Three men – a 40-year-old from Alum Rock, Birmingham; a 21-year-old from Gloucester; and a 29-year-old from Thealby Law, Leeds – were due to appear at the City of Westminster Extradition Court today, while a 38-year-old from Sighthill, Glasgow, appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday. A fifth man, a 24-year-old from Edgeley, Stockport, is expected to appear before City of Westminster magistrates today.

Officers from the UK Border Agency and local police forces were also involved in the raids.

So far £14,000 in cash has been seized, along with identity documents, sim cards and mobile phones.

Soca deputy director Mark Phillips said: "This is a cynical, sordid crime which treats people as commodities to be exploited for profit. The harm it causes affects individuals, communities and the UK as a whole.

"We believe this criminal network was charging up to 4,000 euros – £3,570 – for a door-to-door service. The message today is clear – the UK is part of a global law enforcement family which will not tolerate people smuggling. Working with our national and international partners, Soca will find you and we will stop you." continues here

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