BRUSSELS: Belgian police carried out a major operation targeting a gang that trafficked people to Britain, arresting 10 alleged smugglers and finding 27 migrants, police said on Thursday.
Police made the arrests on Wednesday in a raid on a motorway parking lot in the small western town of Wetteren and in a number of house searches.
“Belgium is a transit country for migrants who want to travel to the United Kingdom. Trucks are often used as a means of transport, with or without the knowledge of the driver,” Brussels police said in a statement.
It said the gang members were “mainly of black African origin” and exclusively used the motorway parking lot in Wetteren, around 40 km (25 miles) northwest of Brussels, to smuggle the migrants, who included women, children and babies.
Most of the 27 migrants were from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, the statement said.
The operation comes after a police chief in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region said his officers were now waving through migrants trying to reach Britain illegally. Wim Pieteraerens, chief of police in Kruibeke, was quoted by De Standaard newspaper as saying said that “basic police care was compromised” because of the amount of resources they spent dealing with migrants.
“Moreover, we have very little impact because up to 99 per cent of the arrested people were released by the immigration department,” he added.