People smuggling investigation: Two arrested in Belfast in early morning raid

On a south Belfast suburban street lives a 40-year-old woman who anti-trafficking officials believe is part of a network of ruthless criminals profiting from the movement of desperate people.

As residents of Ravenhill Avenue prepare to head to work, the street swarms with Home Office officials, backed by the PSNI.

There is initially no response at the door while the upstairs blinds twitch as an officer prepares for forced entry with a battering ram, the woman opens the door and a search of the property begins before the woman is arrested.

High on the list of items wanted are mobile phones, which give a more complete picture of the extent of the operation.

This is an investigation that has been ongoing for 10 months and involves a close partnership with the Home Office and its southern counterpart.

The crackdown on immigration in the rest of the UK has meant traffickers have diversified and changed their routes. Desperate people, mainly from poorer African countries, are being taken through ports in southern Ireland before crossing the border, many of whom are seeking asylum in Northern Ireland.

Across town and at an apartment complex in Annadale on the banks of the River Lagan, residents watch curiously as a 26-year-old man is brought out in handcuffs. He is an associate of the woman who was arrested earlier in the day.

Both originally from Somalia are naturalized British citizens, just two members of a much larger network earning up to £20,000 per person they assist in traffic to the UK.

Continue. People smuggling investigation: Two arrested in Belfast in early morning raid

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