Illegal immigration gang arrested in joint UK-Italy operation

Three members of an Italy-based criminal gang believed to have facilitated the illegal entry of Brazilians into the UK have been arrested following successful cooperation between the UK Border Agency, the Italian authorities, and the Immigration Affairs team at Ryanair.

The three men, an Italian, a Brazilian and a Senegalese citizen, were arrested by the Milan Border Police at Malpensa Airport in early June. They are suspected to have assisted Brazilians in Italy by providing forged Italian ID cards and arranging travel for them by air from the north of Italy to the UK via Ireland. A fourth person, also from Senegal, is wanted for arrest.

The Italian Operation “Barqueiro” was the outcome of complex investigations which began in November 2009. On arrival at a UK airport, a Brazilian citizen coming from Italy was refused entry after presenting a forged Italian ID card at the border. The Brazilian citizen had allegedly contacted the facilitators through a website.

Further checks by the UK Border Agency confirmed the existence of other cases connected to the same gang. The subsequent investigation was conducted by Italian prosecutors and border police, based on intelligence sourced from the Stansted and Gatwick Intelligence Units, the Metropolitan Police’s Op Maxim team and Immigration Affairs at Ryanair, and provided to the Italian authorities through the UK Border Agency’s s RALON (Risk and Liaison Overseas Network) team in Milan. This is one of many UK Border Agency teams deployed overseas to counter the threats to the UK border.

The information gathered suggested that the Brazilian migrants, who do not need a visa to enter Italy as visitors, had flown directly there from Brazil. Following a short stay in Italy, arranged by the gang, they obtained forged ID cards showing their nationality to be Italian, and instructions to be credible as Italians. The migrants then flew to the UK, presenting their genuine Brazilian passport when leaving Italy and the forged Italian ID card upon arrival. Each migrant is believed to have paid €2000-2500 to the gang for their ‘services’.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “The UK Border Agency working hard with international partners to target organised criminal gangs who abuse our immigration system.

“Operations like Op Barqueiro are part of wider activity, with our colleagues in law enforcement, to target even more organisers, perpetrators and beneficiaries of serious immigration crime.”

UK Border Agency International Group Regional Director, EuroMed, based in Rome, Paul Morgan, said: “The UK Border Agency continues to work in close partnership with the Italian Police Authorities to tackle illegal migration and the criminal gangs behind it. These arrests represent the successful outcome of a multi-agency operation led by the Malpensa Police and conducted in close collaboration with the UK Border Agency and the Ryanair Immigration Affairs team.

“Those who engage in the facilitation of illegal migration should know that they will be targeted and brought to justice.”