UK immigration officials sent to Zeebrugge in crackdown against organised smuggling
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    UK immigration officials sent to Zeebrugge in crackdown against organised smuggling

    British and Belgian authorities are investigating the discovery of 39 bodies inside a truck that departed Zeebrugge. Credit: © Belga

    Britain will deploy an increased number of immigration officers to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge after 39 bodies were discovered inside a refrigerated truck departing from there.

    The news comes as authorities in Belgium and Britain investigate the grisly discovery of the bodies and signals an increased crack down on organised human trafficking and people smuggling activities in both ports, De Standaard reports.

    British Home Secretary Pritti Patel said that the “tragic” shed a light on the work that still needed to be done in the fight against organised criminals, adding that the crack down from authorities would be “ruthless.”

    On 23 October, the bodies of 38 adults and one teenager were found inside a refrigerated trailer that had arrived into the English port of Purfleet from Zeebrugge.

    Patel said that the move was reached in agreement with authorities in Belgium, as authorities in both countries carry out the investigation after the bodies were found in when the truck reached Grays, in Essex county.

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    Five people have been arrested in connection with the discovery so far, including the 25-year-old driver of the truck identified as Maurice Robinson, who is reportedly still in the custody of British authorities and is facing a series of charges including manslaughter.

    Shortly after police found the bodies, Belgian authorities confirmed that the truck had transited through the port of Zeebrugge, but the mayor of Bruges, which manages Zeebrugge, said that it was “impossible” that the victims had boarded the truck in the Belgian port.

    An investigation conducted by federal public prosecutors in Belgium will focus on the “organisers” of the transportation, with a statement to the press declaring last week that it remained unclear where the victims had gotten on board.

    Robinson’s appearance before a magistrate on Monday showed that he was a member of a people-smuggling group that operated globally to bring people into the UK.

    He is set to appear before the Central Criminal Court in London in November.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times