An Albanian woman believed to be responsible for assisting the transportation of illegal immigrants to the UK in small boats has been arrested in a National Crime Agency investigation.

The female suspect, aged 31, was arrested on the morning of Wednesday 19th October at an address in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

She was arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration and was taken into custody for questioning.

Jacque Beer, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, said:

“This is a proactive investigation in response to intelligence that Albanian organised crime groups were acting as brokers, seeking to facilitate the illegal migration of Albanian nationals using established transportation networks.”

“People smugglers only care about money, they don’t care about migrants’ safety or security.”

“Channel crossings are utterly perilous which is why disrupting and dismantling criminal networks is a priority for the NCA and our partners.

“This is an international problem, with people smugglers also targeting other countries.

“These criminal groups are transnational, making international law enforcement collaboration essential. We are targeting offenders who impact the UK at each stage of the journey – from source, in transit, to the destination.”

The arrest on Wednesday comes as part of sustained NCA action against organised people smuggling and was attended by the National Crime Agency’s Director General, Graeme Biggar, and the former Home Secretary, Suella Braverman.

NCA Director General, Graeme Biggar, said:

“Tackling organised people smuggling is a priority for the NCA, and this threat is indicative of the challenge posed by serious and organised crime more widely. It exploits the vulnerable, it works across continents and borders, and it can be arranged and controlled using the online technology available to everyone… The NCA is working tirelessly, in the UK and around the world, to protect the UK public from the criminals presenting the greatest risk.”

Former Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said on the day of the arrest:

“Today’s operation sends a clear message that we are committed to bringing to justice the criminal gangs behind these deadly journeys across the Channel. The NCA is carrying out vital work with our international partners to tackle people smuggling networks who treat human lives as a commodity.”

“We will use every tool at our disposal to go further and faster in disrupting their business model, deterring illegal migration and saving lives. We will leave no stone unturned to find new ways to curb this crisis and ensure those responsible feel the full force of the law.”

Two weeks ago an Albanian OCG involved in smuggling migrants to the UK via Spain was dismantled following a joint operation between the NCA and Spanish Guardia Civil.

Seven suspects were arrested after Albanian illegal immigrants were moved through the northern cities of Bilbao and Santander into the UK using ferries and freight shipping routes to Portsmouth, Southampton and Liverpool.

Each illegal immigrant was believed to have paid between 3,000 and 15,000 Euros to be smuggled to the UK.

On 7th October, the NCA arrested a 30-year-old Albanian man in Surbiton, southwest London, on suspicion of being involved in an Albanian OCG co-ordinating the movement of illegal immigrants from France to the UK on small boats.

The NCA has more than 60 ongoing investigations into networks or individuals involved in organised immigration crime or human trafficking.

Much of the criminality involved lies outside the UK, and over several years the NCA has claimed that it has built up an extensive intelligence-sharing effort with partners in France, Belgium and beyond.

That includes having NCA officers based in those countries, sharing intelligence and working side by side on joint investigations.

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