News story

Suspected members of Albanian people smuggling ring arrested

Several members of a suspected people smuggling ring have been arrested in a series of raids after allegedly attempting to traffic migrants through UK airports.

Two suspects, both Albanian nationals, were arrested yesterday morning (27 February) as Immigration Enforcement teams carried out a series of raids in Finsbury Park, London.

They are believed to be part of a network using fake travel documents and airline tickets to book 27 Albanian migrants onto UK-bound flights, instructing them to claim asylum using their passports on arrival. The arrests led to the discovery of Class A drugs, and one of the men was later arrested on suspicion of drugs supply.

Seven suspected members of the same criminal network were arrested last month after warrants were executed at 3 addresses in Finsbury Park.

It follows a complex, rapid investigation carried out by the Home Office Criminal and Financial Investigations team with support from Border Force and local police forces.

Officers found evidence of fake UK biometric residence permit documents and airline tickets issued by the suspects to migrants attempting to reach the UK illegally.

The group are believed to have booked migrants onto 11 flights arriving into UK airports.

The men arrested yesterday morning were identified after investigating officers connected their booking details with migrants arriving on flights illegally between July 2022 and January 2023.

Minister for Countering Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson, said:

People smuggling networks will stop at nothing in their efforts to abuse our borders and our laws. They are putting lives at risk.

It is vital we stay ahead of the criminal gangs behind these crimes, and I thank our officers whose hard work led to the success of this operation.

Criminal and Financial Investigator at the Home Office, Richard Darwesh, said: 

Today’s arrests are an important step towards bringing down this people smuggling network and ensuring its members are detained, brought to justice and swiftly removed from the UK.

Our message is clear - if you put lives at risk, we will ensure you face the full weight of the law.

All of the arrested suspects have been bailed pending further investigation.

The activity comes as the UK steps up cooperation with Albania to speed up the removal of those with no right to be here.

A new joint taskforce has been established to strengthen cooperation, including exchanges of law enforcement personnel between the UK and Albania.

Since 1 July 2021, more than 8,000 Albanian nationals who have committed criminal and immigration offences have been returned, and small boat arrivals from Albania were down 90% in 2023.

Published 28 February 2024