Police across Europe arrested over 130 suspect migrant smugglers in what has been labelled as the biggest ever international operation of its kind.
The suspects are accused of trafficking thousands of people across the English Channel to the UK in small boats.
Britain’s National Crime Agency said six people were arrested in the Docklands and Catford areas of London. Dozens of raids also took place in Germany, France and the Netherlands.
French judicial authorities said that the Europe-wide operation targeted a “major organised crime group”.
Police in the German city of Osnabrück said 18 people were arrested in northwestern and southwestern Germany on suspicion of involvement after more than 900 police officers carried out 36 searches.
Europol said in a statement that law enforcement officials identified “around 130 potential victims” of migrant smuggling — including more than 10 children — in the operation.
“Many fall victim to sexual exploitation, forced begging or different types of forced criminality, including petty crimes and drug trafficking. They also become victims of labour exploitation and domestic slavery.”
“More than 22,480 law enforcement officers took part in the [joint] action days, during which checks were carried out at European sea, land, and air borders, with an additional focus on heavily utilised routes into Europe,” Europol added.
More than 28,000 migrants crossed the Channel to the UK last year, compared to just 8,500 in 2020.