Seven arrests made as part of probe into alleged people smuggling ring

Woodford Green raids

The raids took place in Woodford Green. - Credit: NCA

People have been arrested as part of early morning raids in Woodford Green and Bushwood investigating alleged people smuggling in and out of the UK.

Men aged 52 and 28 were held on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration during a National Crime Agency (NCA) swoop on Wednesday, May 19.

Five more people who are all licensed minicab drivers were also arrested for allegedly moving migrants to and from lorry drop-off or pick-up points.

Of those five people arrested on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration, one was from Ilford and the remaining four from Spitalfields, Mile End, Shadwell and Wapping. 

The operation involved more than 130 officers and follows an investigation, codenamed Operation Symbolry, into a suspected network of lorries being using to smuggle people in both directions between France and the UK.

One of the men arrested on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration was from Woodford Green.

One of the men arrested on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration was from Woodford Green. - Credit: NCA

Five lorry drivers have already been convicted in relation to the investigation, after migrants were found hidden in the back of their trucks.

More than 100 migrants have been intercepted during Operation Symbolry, including three wanted criminals who were trying to flee the UK, the NCA said.

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NCA branch operations manager Chris Hill said: “We believe the arrests today, coupled with the actions we have already taken, will end the activities of that network.

“Organised crime groups often rely upon enablers such as complicit lorry drivers and minicab drivers to carry out their work, offering them money to help.

“What I would say to those drivers is that if they are approached, they should tell us, either by calling police on 101 or contacting the charity Crimestoppers anonymously.

“The penalties for drivers caught smuggling migrants are severe, and I would ask those tempted by the idea to consider the potential impact on their lives and livelihoods.”

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