Police detain people smuggling gang that exploited children to fraudulently claim benefits

Police in Brussels and in France have been successful in breaking up a people smuggling gang that forced children to beg on the streets while at the same time using them to fraudulently claim benefits. 15 children have been freed from further exploitation by the gang. 

Officers from the Brussels West Local Police Service and the French Police Nationale raided seven properties in Belgium and France. Forged documents (identity cards, passports, birth and marriage certificates) mobile phones, gold, jewellery and bank transfer documents were seized. French police arrested 13 people in Paris and Lyon. The Judicial Authorities say that those detained are the leading members of the gang.

Friday’s police operation was the culmination of an investigation that got under way in 2018. The gang smuggled illegal immigrants in from Syria and provided them with false documents enabling them to claim asylum and get benefits. Children were registered several times under different names in order to obtain more cash from the benefits system. In one case the gang is reported to have earned 250,000 euro from one family. The children were used to beg at total of 80 locations in Paris.  The Judicial Authorities say that the members of the gang used violence against other beggars and the children that begged for them suffered physical and mental abuse. The leaders of the gang are reported to have earned 3,000 euro each per family whose children they exploited. The Syrian families were provided with board and lodgings by the gang. During Friday’s police operation 15 children were freed. 

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