Page last updated at 19:33 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Traffickers targeted in EU raids

Migrants in Calais
Many would-be immigrants pay traffickers thousands of euros

A gang suspected of bringing more than 2,000 illegal immigrants into Europe has been targeted by police in a series of raids across Europe.

In all, 23 suspected gang members have been arrested - five in the UK, 13 in France, two in the Netherlands, two in Greece and one in Italy.

Most of those allegedly trafficked are Iraqis and Afghans, officials said.

The UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency said a number of illegal immigrants had also been detained in the raids.

Six of them were held in the UK.

Soca said searches at various addresses had recovered £14,000 in cash along with identity documents, Sim cards and mobile phones.

In the UK, arrests were made in Birmingham, Gloucester, Glasgow, Leeds and Stockport.

Soca deputy director Mark Phillips said they believed the criminal network was charging up to 4,000 euros (£3,500) for a "door-to-door service".

In a statement, Soca said the investigation had been led by the French anti-illegal immigration unit, known as Ocriest, and supported by officers from other European countries as well as the EU's criminal intelligence agency, Europol.

Europol, based in The Hague, said the investigation had revealed a smuggling route from Iraq to Sweden or the UK via France.

Soca said the four held in England would appear before Westminster magistrates on Wednesday, while the man held in Glasgow had already appeared in court.

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