Agents with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) have raided 35 locations in England and Scotland in an effort to put a halt to a major people-smuggling network. Forty additional raids are being carried out in Belgium and France.
Reports state that more than 150 UKBA agents have raided locations in London, Hampshire, Peterborough, Birmingham, Coventry, Smethwick, Leamington Spa, and Stoke-on-Trent. Warrants were also served in Manchester, Sheffield, Lancashire and Glasgow. At least 20 arrests have been made in the United Kingdom raids.
Chris Foster, a spokesman with the UKBA, said that officials with the UKBA have been working hand in hand with their counterparts in France and Belgium. He told the BBC:
We believe this to be one of the biggest operations of its kind ever undertaken in the UK, involving officers the length and breadth of the country. We believe we have successfully disrupted a significant organised network suspected of being involved in a systematic attempt to evade the UK's immigration controls.
Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, told the Daily Echo:
The organised criminal gangs involved in people-smuggling prey on the desperation of others in order to line their own pockets. They are also a major factor involved in illegal immigration to the UK.
Officials believe the gangs are bringing immigrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and other countries into Britain, concealing them in trucks and other vehicles according to an Associated Press report.
Details of the raids are still developing. Digital Journal will provide updates as they become available.