23 arrested in UK people-smuggling probes

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British police announced on Tuesday that they had arrested 23 people as part of a series of investigations into suspected people smuggling.

The arrests were made between September 11 and 21, and included 11 individuals suspected of facilitating illegal crossings of the Channel - between France and England - in small boats.

Among those being held are British, Iraqi and Iranian nationals, according to the interior ministry.

“The organized crime groups behind the illegal attempts to cross the border, either by land or sea, are putting the lives of vulnerable people in serious danger for their own financial gain,” said Steve Dann, director of the ministry’s criminal and financial investigations.

More than 80 people who entered Britain illegally on small boats have been returned to Europe.

Border Force cutters are now patrolling the Channel, and equipment including CCTV and night goggles have been deployed on the French coast, according to police.

British authorities intercepted two small boats in the Channel carrying 21 migrants on September 11, days after intercepting 86 migrants on similar vessels -- thought to be one of the largest number of apprehensions in a single day.

They included people from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam.

Channel crossings have intensified this summer as migrants take advantage of mild weather to try to reach Britain via the world’s busiest shipping lane.

Since January, more than 1,450 migrants have been rescued either by British or French coastguards - more than double the number who tried to cross in 2018 - according to official French figures released last month.