Eight held as police target human trafficking ring

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The Independent Online

Police today made a series of raids over a human trafficking gang thought to be responsible for smuggling hundreds of Turkish people into Britain in the past few years.

Police today made a series of raids over a human trafficking gang thought to be responsible for smuggling hundreds of Turkish people into Britain in the past few years.

The illegal immigrants were brought in by air, road and sea through Germany, France and Belgium.

Eight alleged members of the gang were arrested in raids in London this morning.

Further raids were launched by immigration police on the continent and they arrested more suspects.

Five people were held in raids on nine addresses in Hamburg and Cologne in Germany.

The crackdown was a year in the planning and was part of Scotland Yard's ongoing effort - codenamed Operation Maxim - against human trafficking.

On arrival in London the illegal immigrants were being exploited to provide cheap labour in cafes and takeaways in London and elsewhere.

Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, head of the Yard's specialist crime directorate, said: "Today's operation is a further example of our commitment to tackling organised immigration crime that has a devastating effect upon London's communities.

"The arrests follow a 12-month intelligence-led operation, which has seen unprecedented co-operation between the Metropolitan Police, United Kingdom Immigration Service, our counterparts in Germany and with other European law enforcement agencies."

The eight suspects were arrested just after 6am during raids in Surrey, south west and south east London.

Police are still searching businesses connected to the suspects.

Mr Ghaffur said: "Working with our European colleagues in this way has enabled us to take out an entire human trafficking network from route to source.

"Pan-European operations of this type can be very successful and we expect to be mounting more of these in the future.

"We are now working more closely than ever with an increasing number of European law enforcement agencies.

"We continue to target the facilitators and criminal entrepreneurs who cause misery on many levels, mostly within their own communities.

"We are increasingly using new legislation to take criminal assets from those who engage in the movement of people for illicit purposes.

"Many of the crimes impact directly on the diverse communities of London and by arresting these people we are making London a safer city for all its inhabitants."

Immigration minister Des Browne said: "This operation is a real success for the Immigration Service in its joint work with the police.

"It sends a clear message that those seeking to abuse our immigration system will be caught and prosecuted.

"The UK welcomes all foreign nationals who come to the UK legitimately - as visitors, students or workers - with the intention of making a contribution.

"However, we will take tough action on people here illegally and those who make money by facilitating them.

"This kind of racket undermines the confidence of local people and we are determined to ensure we disrupt and prosecute those responsible."