Date: Tuesday, 09 October 2018
Ten people were arrested during raids in the Brussels region on Sunday. Three were released without charge while the remaining seven – all male – were placed in pre-trial detention.
All have since been officially charged with offences relating to “human trafficking within the framework of a criminal organisation,” the Brussels public prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The trafficking ring was based in Brussels and would smuggle “up to 20 migrants” into Britain a day by hiding them inside UK-bound refrigerated lorries, according to prosecutors.
The migrants are said to have paid the smugglers anything between £430 and £2,200 (€500 and €2,500) each for the journey, local prosecutors said.
The investigation was launched by the federal judicial police of Brussels in late July following the arrest of a group of illegal immigrants near the city’s Gard du Nord station.
The number of illegal immigrants in the UK is rising by 70,000 a year, according to a Migration Watch UK report published last month.
It estimates that the gross annual rise in the illegal immigrant population – visa overstayers, clandestine arrivals and failed asylum seekers – is 105,000 a year, while only about 35,000 of the annual total are being deported or depart voluntarily.
The Home Office, however, said it did “not recognise the estimate provided by Migration Watch UK”.
A Home Office spokesman said: “By its very nature, it is not possible to estimate with any confidence the size of the illegal population.”
The number of people crossing into Europe peaked in 2015, but has fallen sharply in each subsequent year. In the first half of 2018, some 46,449 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, according to the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM).
But disputes over immigration continue to divide Europe, with splits between and within governments about who should take responsibility for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
That surge and the pressures it put on the destination countries gave the bloc’s anti-immigration populists an unprecedented boost and pushed migration to the top of Europe’s political agenda, where it has remained since.