Four men believed to have smuggled as many as 50 people into the UK illegally have been arrested.

The men, including a suspect from the North East, were detained after Home Office teams carried out dawn raids at addresses across the country on Wednesday (April 17).

Two British nationals, both 43, living in Huddersfield and Middlesbrough were arrested, while two Kurdish Iraqis, aged 36 and 27, were arrested in Stockport and Southampton.

The men are believed to be responsible for dozens of attempts to bring people to the UK illegally, via commercial airline flights, hidden in cars and on ferries.

As many as 50 people are thought to have entered the UK illegally since 2022 via this criminal network, the Home Office said. The migrants are predominantly Kurdish and Vietnamese nationals.

Minister for Countering Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson, said: “We’re working day and night to dismantle the criminal gangs who are trying to turn a profit by abusing our borders.

“These arrests make clear if you are involved in this kind of criminality, you can expect our teams to find you and bring you to justice – wherever you are in the UK.”

The group’s operations are believed to have spanned Europe, with smuggling attempts taking place across the UK’s borders with the Republic of Ireland and France.

The Home Office said intelligence suggests the suspects have been supplying and manufacturing false travel documents, including passports, national identity cards and blank visas.

It is believed they have been charging more than £1,000 per document.

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Home Office criminal and financial investigator, Paul Harvey, said: “This has been a large and well-planned operation executed across the entire country.

"We are working tirelessly to disrupt and dismantle the networks of criminals helping migrants to enter the UK illegally.

“I’m grateful to my team for their commitment and determination in this investigation. We will now work hard to ensure these suspects are put behind bars.”