Radio 2

Increase in people smuggling as UK’s departure from the single market and customs union approaches

Police in the West Flemish town of Veurne have detained three people smugglers on an industrial estate. Veurne is in the northwest of West Flanders, near to the border with France. It is just 25 kilometres from Dunkirk and around 65 kilometres from the Channel Tunnel. In just 4 weeks’ time the UK will no longer be part of the customs union or the European single market. The British left the EU at the end of January and are currently in a transitional period. 

With the prospect of much tighter checks on vehicles entering the UK from continental Europe there has been an increase in the number of migrants trying to enter the UK illegally either by stowing away aboard vehicles heading for the Channel ports or by trying to cross the Straights of Dover aboard small boats. Veurne’s location means that like in nearby towns and villages across the border in France police there have noticed an increase in the number of transit migrants in recent weeks.

The three people smugglers detained in Veurne are all Albanian nationals. They have been taken to a secure migrant facility awaiting deportation.

Commissioner Toon Fonteyne of the Veurne Local Police Service told VRT News that "Due to the curfew suspicious vehicles have become more conspicuous. Moreover, last week we receive reports from truck drivers and companies on the industrial estate every night. They notice people hanging around there. These are of course transit migrants that hope with the help of people smugglers to get aboard a lorry that will take them to the United Kingdom”.

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