Teenager who ran safe house for human traffickers may be extradited to Belgium
Friday, 09 April 2021
Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash
A Vietnamese teenager who is suspected of running a safe house in Anderlecht may be extradited to Belgium in order to be prosecuted for his role in the Brussels human trafficking network.
A truck found in Essex with 39 dead bodies inside was discovered to have entered England via the Belgian city of Zeebrugge back in 2019, and the teenager’s safe house is thought to be where some of those refugees stayed prior to attempting to enter the UK illegally.
Once the minor has been extradited to Belgium and questioned, the Belgian investigation into those deaths can be closed, and the case can be brought to trial here, according to the federal public prosecutor.
While he attempted to appeal his extradition, a court in Westminster, London, confirmed it on Thursday.
According to the teenager’s lawyer, the charges against his client were not detailed enough.
The young man, who is now 18, faces up to 20 years in prison. He’s accused of membership in a criminal organisation, involvement in human trafficking, and using forged documents.
“He is described as an organiser for human traffickers, by arranging stay and transit for money,” Daniel Sternberg, who acted for the Belgian authorities, told the court. “The vulnerable position of the people who paid money to be smuggled was abused, and minors were also abused.”
Ten of the 39 victims are said to have passed through the safe house in Anderlecht.
“During their stay, they were not allowed to leave that house and had to remain quiet,” Sternberg said.
The victims had paid up to 13,000 British pounds (€15,000) for a so-called VIP smuggling service. After the bodies of the men, women and children were found in the refrigerated truck, the teenager fled first to Berlin and then to Birmingham.
The British Home Secretary has yet to approve the extradition, pending a possible new appeal by the young man’s lawyers.