A Dagenham man has been arrested in connection with an investigation into an organised crime group allegedly bringing migrants to the UK in small boats.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) allege that a 34-year-old man from Dagenham and a 34-year-old man from Grays, Essex are the group ringleaders.

They were arrested this morning (Monday, June 19) on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration, following an NCA operation.

NCA investigators alleges the group have facilitated the illegal entry of numerous migrants, charging between £2,500 and £7,500 each time.

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This includes an event last August where a small boat with 46 migrants on board left from the French coast and was intercepted in British waters.

Those on board were predominantly Albanian nationals, including young children.

One of those attempting to make the crossing was a convicted rapist who has previously been deported from the UK and has now been deported again.

Passengers were removed from the boat and taken to a holding centre by Border Force officers.

The NCA, working closely with the Border Force’s Small Boats Operational Command, investigated the incident.

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Three further events believed to be linked to the group involving a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) were identified by NCA officers in October and November 2022.

The lorry is alleged to have travelled from Coquelles, France, on three separate occasions, stopping at service stations in Cobham and Thurrock to drop off migrants.

The HGV driver, a 55-year-old man from Belgium, was arrested when his lorry was stopped in Folkestone today.

Two other men were arrested on suspicion of unlawful entry to the UK at an address in north London.

All of those arrested remain in custody to be questioned by NCA officers.

Chris Farrimond, director of threat leadership at the NCA, said: “Tackling organised immigration crime is a priority for the NCA and we have more than 90 ongoing investigations into networks based here and overseas causing the highest harm."