EU authorities have arrested 26 suspected smugglers. According to the Paris prosecutor, 13 of them were arrested in the Paris area. They are said to be part of an organization that illegally smuggled dozen people from Southeast Asia to Europe. The remaining suspects were caught in Belgium. They are accused of human trafficking and sometimes negligent homicide.
Investigators from France, Belgium, the UK and Ireland worked together on the case. They were supported by the European Union Agency for Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters and by Interpol. The investigation team was established when 39 people from Vietnam were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Essex in October 2019. However, the current arrests are not directly related to the case, as the Essex police clarified.
The AFP news agency, citing sources of the investigation, announced that a suspect in Germany was arrested by means of a European arrest warrant. The 29-year-old is said to have played a central role in the organization. He is suspected of being the head of the "French side" network responsible for the transportation of the 39 Vietnamese citizens.
Britain is a popular destination for many migrants. Since the country is not part of the Schengen zone and has strict border controls, it is more common for smugglers to hide refugees in trucks. More than half a year ago, the British police in Essex found a refrigerated truck with 39 dead migrants.
The dead were 31 men and 8 women from Vietnam. They were apparently locked up in the truck and smuggled into the UK. According to the post-mortem report, they died of lack of oxygen and overheating. At the beginning of April, the truck driver had pleaded guilty. He was charged with negligent homicide in 39 cases before a London court. One person was also arrested in Ireland.
Correction note: In a previous version, the arrests were linked to the investigation into the case of the 39 Vietnamese found dead in a refrigerated truck. This is not the case. We have updated the relevant position and apologize.