Gardaí investigating a criminal gang suspected of exploiting the common travel area for illegal immigration have carried out a series of searches in Dublin and Wicklow and arrested three suspects.
The operation was carried out by members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), with related operations also taking place in the UK, in a joint investigation into a gang suspected of trafficking undocumented migrants between the Republic and UK.
Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who is head of Organised and Serious Crime within the Garda, said the operation formed part of the force’s efforts to ensure the integrity of the immigration system.
"This operation was undertaken by the Garda National Immigration Bureau with a view to protecting the common travel area operated by the UK and Ireland from being exploited by organised crime groups who are suspected to be involved in facilitating illegal immigration," he said.
Detectives from GNIB moved on six residential addresses early on Wednesday morning, five in Dublin and one in Wicklow, and arrested the three suspects while also seizing cash, mobile phones, financial documents and other documents related to travel and immigration suspected of being false.
The men arrested in the Republic are aged 26, 46 and 52 years and were arrested on suspicion of breaching section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act, which relates to assisting a criminal gang. The three suspects were being held for questioning at Garda stations in Dublin under section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, which allows for their detention for up to seven days without charge.
Other phases of what was an international inquiry were being carried out under the auspices of the Cross Border Joint Agency Task Force, designed to tackle cross-border crime, with the support of Europol, Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, said in a statement.
Immigration Enforcement in the UK also carried out searches on Wednesday morning, the Garda said.
The Irish Times understands the criminals who have been smuggling undocumented people into the Republic are from Eastern Europe and have a network across Continental Europe.
Gardai believe their operations are also established in the Republic, which has become one of their destination and transit countries for trafficking people, some of whom are then exploited once they are smuggled into their destination country.