The suspected head of a crime network involved in smuggling migrants to the UK in the back of lorries has been extradited to Belgium to face trial.

Man in handcuffs with two officersThe 30-year-old Iraqi national was tracked down and arrested by the National Crime Agency in January 2020. He was living in a property in Cippenham, Slough, at the time.

The man was subject to a European Arrest Warrant issued by a judge in Antwerp, Belgium, where he is alleged to have organised the transportation of significant numbers of people throughout 2018 and 2019.

Migrants would be moved from Brussels to motorway service lorry parks, where they would be loaded onto trucks bound for the UK. The group would often use refrigerated lorries.

The 30-year-old’s extradition was confirmed by the UK courts on 12 March 2021, after he withdrew an appeal against it. On 27 March he was returned to Belgium where he is now remanded in custody and awaiting trial.

NCA head of organised immigration crime operations, Miles Bonfield, said:

“NCA officers both in the UK and overseas have worked closely with our Belgian counterparts throughout this investigation.

“We are determined to do all we can to tackle criminal people smuggling networks impacting on the UK, no matter where they are.

“These networks are ruthless, treating migrants as a commodity to be profited from, and we have seen the tragic consequences that can come about when refrigerated lorries are used in such attempts.”

1 April 2021