Police bust biggest-ever illegal immigration ring

15th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 15 (AFP) - European police have broken up the biggest-ever illegal immigration ring targeting Britain by arresting dozens of suspects believed to have helped smuggle "thousands" of people into that country, French and Italian authorities said Thursday.

PARIS, Dec 15 (AFP) - European police have broken up the biggest-ever illegal immigration ring targeting Britain by arresting dozens of suspects believed to have helped smuggle "thousands" of people into that country, French and Italian authorities said Thursday.

The raids -- carried out in Britain, France, Greece, Italy and Turkey on Wednesday with Interpol and Europol coordination after a three-year investigation -- dismantled "the biggest clandestine immigration network" yet uncovered, one French official said.

French authorities said a total of 53 people were arrested -- 22 in France, 18 in Italy, seven in Britain, three in Turkey and three in Greece.

Italian police put the number apprehended at 90. The reason for the discrepancy between the two totals was not immediately known.

French authorities said the illegal immigrants came from Afghanistan, Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Pakistan, Somalia and Ethiopia.

The people-smuggling ring, they said, had been operating for the past five years and had succeeded in getting "thousands" of clandestines into Britain. The immigrants went through Greece, Italy and then into Britain via France's Calais region near the English Channel, they said.

French prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin said the immigrants paid EUR 6,000 to EUR 7,000 to cross the Channel into Britain.

French investigators said that one of the three people arrested in Britain was the alleged mastermind of the ring.

Italian authorities said the network had handled more than 5,000 illegal immigrants and was managed by an Iraqi Kurd living in Rome who had made several million dollars off the business.

They said the most of the illegal immigrants were Iraqi Kurds who paid between EUR 6,250 to EUR 12,500 for their passage.

The arrests were the result of three years of investigation in the five countries, said the Italian police.

"Among the 90 people arrested, 35 were so for links with the mafia," Piero Grasso, Italy's chief mafia prosecutor said.

He said they were suspected of "intimidation, threats, aggression towards immigration-seekers, but also towards their families who remained in the country."

The would-be immigrants were also transported "in inhuman conditions in containers, or lorries, and were treated like goods," Grasso said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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