One of largest migrant smuggling network in Europe dismantled, 19 arrested, says Europol

Leader and four main organisers among detained following large-scale operation involving German, French and Belgian police

One of the biggest migrant smuggling networks across the English channel was dismantled with the arrest of 19 people in Germany, including the leader and four main organisers, Europol said on Thursday following a large-scale operation conducted with German, French and Belgian police.

“The investigation focused on an Iraqi-Kurdish network suspected of smuggling Middle Eastern and East African irregular migrants from France to the UK with the use of low quality inflatable boats,” the EU’s law enforcement agency said.

The suspects of the investigation, launched at the end of 2022, organised the purchase, storage and transportation of the inflatable boats, mainly of Chinese origin, that they later used to smuggle migrants from the beaches near the French city of Calais toward the UK.

On average, the gang would put 50 migrants in the boats suited for a maximum of 10 passengers, charging between €1,000 and €3,000 per migrant, Europol said.


Wave, the operational taskforce behind the arrests, searched 28 locations in Germany and seized 24 inflatable boats, large amounts of nautical equipment, 60 electronic devices, arms, and several thousand euros in cash.

About 900 German police officers in total were involved in the operation, the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said in a separate statement.

Earlier this month, the EU's Frontex border agency said irregular immigration to the bloc from western Africa had risen more than 10 times on the year in January.

Frontex said it expects overall arrivals to grow in 2024 and that halting the movement of people completely is impossible. – Reuters