The Belgian Court of Bruges sentenced 20 suspects today to prison terms ranging from 30 months to 11 years for their involvement in migrant smuggling. They were also ordered to pay fines of up to EUR 80 000.
The suspects were arrested in July 2022 in an unprecedented international operation targeting a criminal network suspected of using small boats to smuggle up to 10 000 migrants across the English Channel. The action was carried out jointly by authorities in several countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, with the support of Eurojust and Europol.
Thanks to intensive cooperation and exchange of information, the authorities involved were able to deal a severe blow to one of the most significant crime groups involved in cross-Channel migrant smuggling. During an action day on 5 July 2022, 39 people were arrested and over 50 searches were carried out simultaneously in several countries.
The organised crime group is believed to have facilitated the smuggling of Vietnamese nationals into the United Kingdom, among other things. To achieve this, the criminal network set up a large infrastructure. The investigation revealed that migrants were transported to the United Kingdom in motorised boats supplied from Germany.
Eurojust supported the investigation and played a key role in facilitating judicial cross-border cooperation between all parties involved. During the action day, Eurojust set up a coordination centre to enable rapid cooperation between the judicial authorities. The Agency hosted four coordination meetings to facilitate judicial cooperation and preparations for the joint action day.