18 arrested in raids targeting gang suspected of bringing Iranian asylum seekers to UK


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The Independent Online

Seven people have been arrested in raids targeting a gang suspected of taking cash to help Iranian asylum seekers get into Britain.

UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers worked with the Spanish police and airlines including Ryanair to stage the crackdown on a criminal network working across Europe.

It is alleged that the gang helps Iranians to get to the UK from mainland Europe by giving them fake travel documents and organising travel.

A series of early morning raids were carried out in London yesterday and six men and one woman aged between 23 and 56 were arrested. Computers, documents and mobile phones were also seized.

Another eleven people were arrested in raids in Madrid and Alicante.

Chris Foster from UKBA said: "This investigation is targeting an organised network suspected of being involved in a systematic attempt to evade the UK's immigration controls.

"People smuggling is an international crime which requires international co-operation, so we have been working very closely with our Spanish law-enforcement colleagues from the outset.

"Our investigation will continue with the evidence we have seized."

Six of the arrests were in north London. Four men aged 23, 29, 38 and 56, and a woman aged 23, were held in Mill Hill, and a 44-year-old man was detained in Edgware.

The seventh, a 46-year-old man, was arrested in Kensington, central London. They were all held on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate an asylum seeker for gain.

Spanish police said about 20 Iranians per month were trying to enter the UK via Europe.

Those who managed to reach the UK mostly came to London Stansted and Manchester airports on budget airlines.

Investigators believe that they were charged up to £14,000 each to get to Britain.