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Three Arrests in Crackdown Against Migrant Smuggling Across the English Channel

An investigation by law enforcement and judicial authorities from Belgium, France and the U.K., supported by Europol and Eurojust, led to the arrests of three individuals suspected of being involved in migrant smuggling using small boats across the English Channel. 

A number of interceptions made in 2021 in Belgium uncovered the suspects’ links to a migrant smuggling network which was transporting migrants in small boats from France to the U.K. across the English Channel. The investigation suggests that some of the members of the criminal network were operating from France, while others operated from the U.K. The information exchange between involved national authorities through Europol and Eurojust channels led to the identification of a number of suspects. 

On November 9, following this international cooperation at the judicial and law enforcement level, French and U.K. law enforcement authorities arrested two suspects (one Iraqi and one Kuwaiti national) by order of the investigating judge in Bruges. At the same time, French Border Police made one arrest (one Iraqi national) under a European Arrest Warrant issued by Belgium. 

Europol facilitated the information exchange between the participating countries. Europol also provided 24/7 analytical and operational support, and facilitated the real-time exchange of communication between the participating authorities.

Meanwhile, U.K. National Crime Agency investigators are working with partners in Belgium to help track down the head of an organized crime group that attempted to smuggle more than 100 migrants to the U.K. in small boats and truck.

Iraqi national Barzan Kamal Majeed, nicknamed “Scorpion” after his WhatsApp avatar, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for people smuggling offenses in his absence at a court in Belgium last month.

A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and investigators on both sides of the English Channel are now appealing for information regarding his whereabouts.

Majeed moved to the UK in 2013 and lived in the Hucknall area of Nottingham, where he is understood to still have connections. He was deported from the U.K. in 2015 to the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq.       

The Belgian prosecution followed a joint investigation into 31 separate attempts to smuggle migrants into the U.K. between July 2018 and November 2019 using small boats, lorries and shipping containers.

The investigation had already resulted in the UK conviction of fellow crime group member Nzar Jabar Mohamad, 35, last year. Mohamad was jailed for 10 years at Hull Crown Court in October 2021 after admitting attempting to bring 21 migrants to the U.K. using lorries and small boats. He boasted of smuggling hundreds of women. A further 23 people suspected of involvement with this crime ring were charged by the Belgian authorities.

Read more at Europol

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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