MADRID: Six thousand Ukrainians have been illegally smuggled into Britain via ferries from Ireland, Spanish police have revealed.
Spain’s national police force announced yesterday that they had smashed the biggest people-smuggling ring transporting Ukrainians into the European Union and to their final destination of Britain. The gang successfully introduced 6,000 Ukrainians into Britain by issuing the immigrants with false ID documents and flying them into Ireland before catching a ferry to reach UK soil, police allege.
“The candidates were selected from Ukrainian citizens with economic problems, family responsibilities and the intention of leaving the country and travelling to the United Kingdom in search of a better future,” a police statement said.
The immigrants passed through Poland and several other EU countries which make up the Schengen area before flying to Ireland.
A total of 115 people have been arrested, all of whom are Ukrainian citizens, including the alleged ringleader who was living in Barcelona with his girlfriend. Police said they found more than 100 false Polish ID cards and passports in the couple’s home. Two other alleged people smugglers were arrested in Poland and a man who was based in Romania.
Of the would-be immigrants held over the past 18 months in airports in various countries, 56 were caught in Spain, 30 in Belgium, 21 in France, three in Portugal and one in the Netherlands. Questioning of those arrested for using false papers allowed the Spanish police to identify the smugglers as part of a Europol operation also involving authorities in Poland, France and the UK.
Spanish police said that the investigation led to the “identification of the network’s leader in Britain, a Ukrainian citizen in charge of welcoming the immigrants on arrival in London”.
But, the sources added, “the suspect could not be arrested and a European arrest warrant has been put out”.
Potential immigrants suffering economic hardship in their native Ukraine were sought by a man and daughter team who used Romania as a base, a country in which they had “set up a travel agency” to book flights and make travel plans for the migrants.