Thirteen suspected illegal immigrants have been arrested following a series of UK Border Agency (UKBA) raids targeting cannabis farms across Liverpool.
The joint operation with Merseyside police, which began at 7am today, uncovered a number of houses across Liverpool where 12 suspected illegal immigrants were found. One further man was arrested in Birmingham. A number of cannabis factories were also uncovered.
As part of the operation the UKBA believe the main organisers have been found and they believe they will bring those responsible to justice.
The thirteen offenders were taken to police stations in Merseyside for questioning. The Border Agency say they will, if appropriate, be transferred to immigration detention pending their removal from the UK.
Dave Magrath, Head of the UK Border Agency crime team in the North West, said:
“This operation shows the UK Border Agency is taking strong action to crack down on immigration crime as well as criminal activity being carried out by foreign nationals. Being in the UK is a privilege not a right and those that come here must abide by our laws or we will track them, arrest them and remove them.
“Working together with Merseyside police we have safeguard communities in Liverpool by uncovering and apprehending those who have no right to be in the country and are involved in criminal activity across our city.”
Superintendent Mark Wiggins added:
"We are committed to working with the UKBA to crackdown on illegal immigration in Merseyside and will pay particular focus on those who are also committing crime. Cannabis is not the harmless drug it is often perceived to be and is the most used illegal drug in the UK.
"People who grow cannabis often have a total disregard for the safety of others, frequently endangering the lives of those in neighbouring properties by tampering with electricity supplies and leaving live electrical cables exposed, increasing the risk of fire.
"We are committed to taking cannabis and those involved in growing this drug off our streets. However, we cannot fight this problem alone and urge members of the public to keep telling us about suspected cannabis farms on their streets so we can continue to take action against those responsible.
"There is a strong and distinctive smell to cannabis and I would urge any members of the public to contact us if they suspect it may be growing somewhere so we can help rid our communities of this danger."
Anyone who has information on suspected immigration offenders can visit the Border Agency website.