Four arrested in connection with people smuggling from Belgium to UK on small boats

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NCA make arrests in connection with people smuggling. Credit: National Crime Agency

Four people have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling people to the UK on boats via Belgium.

Two Albanian nationals, aged 44 and 48, in Nottingham and a 46-year-old Irish man in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, were arrested by National Crime Agency officers on Tuesday morning (28 February).

A 51-year-old man from Albania was also arrested in Hove on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration.

Investigators allege they have been involved in acquiring a rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) and using it to travel to Belgium to collect migrants, landing at Margate in Kent.

The men are all alleged to be part of a gang organising a series of people smuggling runs to the UK from Europe, including a number of crossing events last year.

The operation is linked to two arrests in Belgium on Sunday 30 October 2022, where a man from Basingstoke and a man from Leicester were arrested on suspicion of people smuggling offences as they arrived on the coast near Nieuwpoort at 4.30am.

Twelve migrants, including a child, all believed to be Albanian nationals, were also taken into custody by the Belgian authorities.

NCA Branch Commander Colin Williams said: “These arrests follow an extensive investigation into individuals who we believe were involved in a number of migrant crossings from Belgium to the Kent coast in 2022.

"Tackling people smuggling continues to be a priority for the NCA as we target and disrupt organised crime groups at every step of the route."