Crime gang responsible for smuggling 1,000 migrants into the UK in lorries smashed by police

A trafficking crime gang responsible for smuggling up to 1,000 migrants into the UK in just one year has been smashed by police The French gang, known as the Pierrefitte connection made up to GBP2.5 million from the migrants who were loaded onto trucks bound for Britain. Police bugged a bar in the Paris suburbs where members of the gang allegedly met to discuss their plans as part of a year-long surveillance operation.

Seven of the key figures in the gang were arrested in raids earlier this month, according to police yesterday. It follows a report this week by David Bolt, chief inspector of borders, which warned UK immigration was failing to crackdown on “lorry drops” as officers and resources were diverted to combat migrants crossing the Channel. In 2018, more than 7,500 migrants were encountered by immigration officers entering the UK hidden in lorries but in two-thirds of cases the vehicle involved was never identified.

In 2019, there were over 10,000 encounters, with the vehicle identified in just over a quarter of cases. The gang smuggled migrants living in Paris or nearby out to the highway where they were loaded onto trucks in the south east of the capital.  It was cited by superintendent Jean Arvieu as evidence that smugglers were starting journeys farther and farther from the border in the belief that vehicles are less likely to be searched.

In one case, trucks had been boarded in Bordeaux, 500 miles from Calais. Those being smuggled had to pay 3,000 euros for a place aboard a truck and the crime gang is thought to have made between 1.5 million and 3 million euros from the operation. “During one year of investigation we could count about 500 to 1,000 passages or attempts to cross the Channel,” said Mr Arvieu.

Officers refer to the group as the Pierrefitte connection – a reference to its links to the northern Parisian suburb Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. The migrants would have been living in squats in the French capital or the surrounding area and were mostly men aged between 20 and 35, Mr Arvieu said. However, he added: “One night we could see a kid loaded in a truck and sometimes we have families.

This is problematic.

It shows that migrant smuggling by trucks to Great Britain is still a reality.”

With winter approaching and weather conditions getting worse, Mr Arvieu expected numbers of smuggling attempts in trucks to rise as small boat crossings become more dangerous.

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