Vaiju Naravane

200 illegal migrants taken into custody after a pre-dawn swoop

Most migrants captured were Indians aged between 15 and 35-years-old

Paris: The Belgian Police claim to have smashed a people-smuggling ring run by Indians and arrested 15 people. They also took 200 illegal migrants into custody after a pre-dawn swoop on Saturday on 19 alleged “safe houses,” where smugglers hid illegal immigrants.

Officials protest action

A Sikh gurdwara in the Vilvoorde suburb north of Brussels, which was also raided was found to be sheltering some 50 illegal immigrants, the Belgian police said. The gurdwara officials have protested saying policemen who conducted the raid walked into the building with their shoes on and rudely interrupted the recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib.

“At least two of the people arrested were, we believe, the brains behind the trafficking operations in Belgium. They controlled a whole series of little groups, sometimes working together, sometimes competing against each other,” Belgium’s deputy public prosecutor Tim De Wolf told journalists. “We hope that we have broken up the core of the network. This operation proved this is happening on a large scale,” he said.

Tales of misery

Many of the detained illegal immigrants told horrific tales of untold misery. They had all paid upwards of €12,000 to the people traffickers. Most clandestine migrants captured in the raids were Indians aged between 15 and 35-years-old, accompanied by some women and children, from the Punjab region of India. Belgian television reported that some 24 illegal immigrants had been found packed in a single 12 square metre windowless room.

On 19 September 2007, The Hindu had reported on an almost identical case in the suburbs of Brussels during which 19 arrests were made. Fifty illegal immigrants, again mostly from the Punjab had been detained then as they made their way to Britain.

Money offered

“We suspect that in this past year thousands of illegal Indians have passed through Belgium to the U.K.,” said Mr. De Wolf. Indian and Iraqi Kurdish gangs were said to cooperate in the people smuggling business. They operate from parking lots along the motorways going from Belgium to Britain. Illegal migrants were loaded onto trucks with drivers being offered huge sums of money for the clandestine cargo.