Europe arrests Vietnamese migrant smugglers

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French, German and Hungarian police on Tuesday arrested 58 people suspected of smuggling Vietnamese migrants to Britain following a probe triggered by a recent surge in trafficking.

French Immigration Minister Eric Besson said Vietnamese migrants were smuggled into France from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Germany and hidden in special compartments in trucks and ferries en route to Britain.

In all, 34 people were arrested in France, 19 in Hungary and five in Germany as part of the joint operation coordinated by Europol, the European police organisation.

Besson said the network was "very well-structured" with many international contacts and whose members had well-defined tasks such as providing shelter or handling finances.

A special task force dealing with Vietnamese people smuggling was created 18 months ago after French authorities noticed a hike in arrests of migrants en route to Britain.

Besson has vowed to crack down on migrants who travel to northern France in the hopes of crossing the Channel illegally into Britain.

Last year, he shut a makeshift camp in Calais known as "the jungle" where hundreds of migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, were living, hoping to sneak on board trains through the Channel tunnel or in trucks that board ferries.

France has dismantled 92 migrant smuggling rings between January and May and Besson has set a target of crushing 200 networks by the end of the year.

© 2010 AFP

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