National Crime Agency arrests over people smuggling operation from Belgium to Margate

Four people have been arrested in the NCA investigation (image NCA)

Four people have been arrested as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into a group alleged to have smuggled people in boats from Belgium to Margate.

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

Investigators allege they have been involved in acquiring a rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) and using it to travel to Belgium to collect those wanting to seek asylum in the UK, landing at Margate.

A 51-year-old man from Albania was also arrested in Hove this morning for his suspected role in assisting unlawful immigration.

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.

Today’s 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 people seeking asylum, 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.”