The smugglers – all men – charged the illegals €2,500 each, justice officials revealed on Monday, after ten traffickers were arrested during raids in the Brussels region on Sunday.
While three were released without charge, the remaining seven were placed in pre-trial detention. They have been officially charged with “human trafficking within the framework of a criminal organisation,” the Brussels public prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Based in Brussels, the smuggling ring hid “up to 20 migrants” inside refrigeration trucks heading for the UK per day, according to prosecutors.
Disputes over immigration continue between EU members and within governments about who should take responsibility for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
“There is almost no chance of reaching Europe illegally” without paying human traffickers, Robert Crepinko, the head of the human smuggling unit at Europol told AFP last month.
Citing a study from 2015, ninety percent of migrants who enter Europe are helped by human traffickers, he added.
“The journey can last one year, two years, depending on the ring and the funds you have, because the trafficking networks will take you as far as you can pay,” Jose Nieto Barroso of the national police’s human smuggling unit UCRIF told AFP.
The illegals head for Morocco because “it’s the best place to wait for the right moment to cross” over to Spain, Nieto Barroso explained.
A UK Home Office spokesman said: “By its very nature, it is not possible to estimate with any confidence the size of the illegal population.”
It has since been suggested that to deport all of the irregular migrants from Britain would take at least 20 years and cost up to £12 billion. The study was commissioned former Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
The greater London area is considered to be home to the majority of the country’s population of such immigrants.
Analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggested that an amnesty would net the government up to £1.038 billion per year in fiscal revenue, but others were less optimistic.
A study by MigrationWatch UK suggests that if the illegal migrants granted amnesty were given access to healthcare and other benefits, the net cost to the exchequer would be £5.530 billion annually.