French and Belgian police arrest 26 suspects in Europe-wide crackdown on human trafficking triggered by deaths of 39 migrants in a lorry in Essex
- The 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in a container in Grays on October 23
- Inquest heard that their medical cause of death was asphyxia and hyperthermia
- On April 8, lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 25, pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter at the Old Bailey
Police in France and Belgium have arrested 26 suspects as part of an investigation into human trafficking across Europe that was prompted by the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry container in Essex.
The 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in a container which was parked at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays on October 23 last year. Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among those found dead.
An inquest heard that their medical cause of death was asphyxia and hyperthermia – a lack of oxygen and overheating – in an enclosed space.
On April 8, lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter at the Old Bailey in London and is due to be sentenced at a later date.
Twenty-six people have been arrested as part of an investigation into human trafficking across Europe prompted by the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry container in Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)
Later that month an Irish haulage boss, Ronan Hughes, appeared in court and was facing extradition to the UK over the deaths of the migrants.
The 40-year-old was arrested last month in Co Monaghan by police in the Republic of Ireland in response to a European Arrest Warrant.
He appeared before the High Court in Dublin via videolink and his solicitor made a bail application, which prosecutors made a number of objections to.
Mr Justice Paul Burns denied his bail application said if it was was granted there would be a real risk of him absconding.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, set up an information-sharing operational task force following the discovery in Essex and on Wednesday it announced a series of arrests.
On Tuesday, houses in Paris and the Brussels area were searched, with 13 people arrested in France and 13 in Belgium, Europol said.
Those detained are suspected of being part of a criminal organisation trafficking Vietnamese nationals through Belgium and France to the UK.
Europol said 21 migrants were found and taken to safety, and three vehicles were seized, along with cash and electronic equipment.
The suspects are believed to have hidden their victims before routing them towards their final destination across the English Channel, the agency said.
Europol said it is likely that the network has transported up to several dozen people every day for several months.
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