Norwegian and British police have uncovered what they believe is an organized human smuggling route between Brevik on Norway’s southern coast and Immingham in England. The smugglers allegedly hide their human cargo in containers shipped on board ferries that run in scheduled service between the two cities.
The alleged smuggling route was revealed publicly after four young Albanian men were arrested on Thursday and charged with violating Norwegian immigration law. They were first spotted inside the enclosed cargo areas at the port of Brevik in Telemark County, and found inside a container that was about to be loaded on a DFDS Seaways ferry to Immingham.
Smuggled in from Sweden
The four Albanians faced a custody hearing on Friday and expulsion from Norway, prosecutor Odd Skei Kostveit of the Telemark Police District told news bureau NTB.
It’s believed the men paid smugglers to get them from Sweden to England via Norway. The men, all in their 20s, are suspected of being driven into Norway over the border from Sweden, and then hidden in the containers bound for the UK.
Police have long suspected that illegal aliens are smuggled on board the cargo ferries, and have been investigating since 2010. Kostveit said none of the current organizers had been arrested yet, but he told Norwegian Broadcastin (NRK) that two Albanians with residence permission in Sweden were arrested and charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigration around 15 months ago. He said he and his colleagues think the arrests Thursday are part of the same operation.
The smugglers find their clients among poor, young eastern Europeans, many from Albania, who face high unemployment and few opportunities in their homeland. That’s why many young Albanian men try to flee to England, Rasim Gjoka, an Albanian expert in conflict resolution, told NRK.
Despite England’s strict immigration policies, Gjoka said that many other Albanians are already in the country, so new arrivals think they’ll have an easier time finding work and shelter.
Record expulsions of illegal aliens
Norwegian immigration officials, meanwhile, reported earlier this week that a record number of persons denied asylum in Norway had agreed to return to their home countries voluntarily last year. Immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) had aimed to send 6,300 rejected refugees home and ended up putting 6,556 on planes out of the country.
Just over 1,000 of them were criminals expelled from Norway, the majority from Lithuania, but 1,812 persons were rejected refugees who accepted cash offers of up to NOK 20,000 to leave voluntarily as opposed to being expelled. Many of those returning voluntarily went home to Russia and Iraq. Rejected refugees returning to either Iraq or Afghanistan can receive up to NOK 35,000 (nearly USD 6,000) in what the Norwegians call “start capital” to begin new lives back home.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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