European police arrest 39 in migrant smuggling crackdown

STORY: Europol said the network could have smuggled as many as 10,000 illegal migrants to Britain over the past year and a half and netted as much as $15.3 million (15 million euros) from their criminal activity.

"This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest operation targeting this kind of migrant smugglers using small boats to transfer migrants," Europol spokesperson Ton van Lierop told Reuters.

Police officials said the gang was one of the most active criminal networks smuggling people from France to Britain in small boats.

Police forces in Britain, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands were involved in the operation.

One of the key suspects, a 26-year-old Iranian-Kurdish man, was arrested in Britain along with five others. Germany arrested 18 people, French police nine and Dutch police six suspected gang members.

Police also seized more than 1,200 life-jackets, some 150 rubber boats and around 50 engines as well as tens of thousands of euros in cash, firearms and drugs, Europol said.

Official figures show that more than 28,500 people were detected arriving in England last year after making the dangerous cross-Channel journey on small boats and the British government is under heavy public pressure to halt the flow.

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