Belgian police have dismantled a network of human traffickers accused of smuggling Sudanese and Eritrean migrants to Britain, the Brussels prosecutor said.
Around 50 investigators raided several addresses in Brussels and detained 10 people, of whom seven have now been formally arrested pending charges.
At two of the addresses, a total of eight undocumented migrants were found and have been handed over to immigration authorities, the prosecutor said.
The gang is alleged to have recruited vulnerable would-be migrants in Parc Maximilien, an open area in Brussels that has become notorious as a transit point.
Around 20 migrants per day paid between 500 and 2,500 euros ($575 and $2,870) for onward travel to Britain, “often in unpleasant or even dangerous conditions in lorries, even freezer trucks”.
According to the statement, the victims were instructed the take a train from Brussels to Rochefort-Jemelle, 120 kilometres (75 miles) southeast of the city.
From there, the North Africans walked another 15 kilometres along abandoned tracks to a truck stop at Wanlin and boarded trucks bound for Britain.
The arrests came after an investigation that began in July and police are continuing the hunt for accomplices, including the “citizens” they presume helped the gang.
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The Belgian authorities did not give any details about the identity of the seven suspects, who face charges of “human trafficking as part of a criminal organisation.”