Raids carried out in Surrey and Oxfordshire as authorities target organised crime

Authorities raided multiple properties as part of the operation. Credit: National Crime Agency

Seven people have been arrested as part of a National Crime Agency operation aimed at dismantling an organised crime group involved in transporting hundreds of Albanian migrants to the UK illegally.

Raids took place in Surrey and Oxfordshire, as well as South London and Hartlepool on Tuesday.

Investigators believe the group used lorries and hired vans to transport individuals from northern France.

A man is taken into custody by NCA officials. Credit: National Crime Agency

The group are alleged to have had contacts across Europe, in France, Germany the Netherlands and Poland.

Over a period of six months between July and December 2020 six such attempts were stopped by Border Force officers carrying out searches of vehicles at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, near Calais.

All have subsequently been linked to the group as part of an investigation by the NCA.

It said the operation involved around 100 officers, was supported by the Metropolitan Police and Immigration Enforcement and that approximately £30,000 in cash was recovered.

In some cases migrants are believed to have paid the OCG between £20,000 and £25,000 to reach the UK.

Investigators have identified numerous bank accounts alleged to belong to the network, each showing tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds in turnover.

Ten people were found in the back of a van by officials in 2020. Credit: National Crime Agency

NCA Branch Commander Richard Harrison said:

“We believe these arrests will have significantly disrupted an organised criminal network responsible for smuggling potentially hundreds of people into the UK illegally.

“The network claimed to provide a top of the range service and charged accordingly, using complicit drivers to transport migrants in hired vehicles.

“This activity represented a significant threat to both the safety of the migrants involved and the security of UK border controls.”