Published: 10:47, 08 October 2019
| Updated: 13:30, 08 October 2019
Four men have been arrested over a plot to smuggle migrants into Kent, which resulted in the death of woman.
The arrests were the culmination of a joint operation by Britain's National Crime Agency and French police.
The Iranian woman entered the water from an inflatable vessel as it tried to cross the Channel on August 9.
Her body was discovered 11 days later in Dutch waters. She is thought to be the first migrant to die while crossing the world's busiest shipping lane.
The other 19 people on board her vessel survived.
The incident happened around 25 miles off the coast of Ramsgate and HM Coastguard had been scrambled a helicopter to help find them.
The first man to be held, a 31-year-old Iranian national, was in the same boat during the crossing.
He was arrested, in Coventry on September 20, on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration by NCA officers.
He was questioned and released under investigation.
Three other men, aged 25, 44, and 28, were arrested in France yesterday and are currently being questioned.
The investigation there is being led by the Prosecution Office of the Court of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
In addition to the UK arrest, two men, both Iranian nationals, were interviewed under caution by NCA investigators in the Liverpool and Lancashire areas.
“These groups don’t care about the dangers of these journeys, and are quite happy to prey on the desperation of migrants and put them in terrible danger..." — Steve Reynolds, NCA
Steve Reynolds, head of organised immigration crime operations for the NCA, said: “The dangers posed by these types of attempts to reach the UK illegally were tragically highlighted by what happened in this case.
“Our investigation into the people behind this smuggling attempt continues.
"I would ask anyone with information which might aid that investigation to come forward to us or via Crimestoppers.
“While we know some of these attempts have been self-facilitated, it is also clear that organised crime groups have been involved in many of them.
“These groups don’t care about the dangers of these journeys, and are quite happy to prey on the desperation of migrants and put them in terrible danger.
“The NCA is working closely with law enforcement partners in the UK and France to disrupt these networks, protect the security of the UK border and prevent loss of life.”
The investigation into the facilitation attempt on August 9 is being led by the NCA, supported by Immigration Enforcement and in conjunction the French authorities.
The death of the Iranian woman is being investigated by the Dutch authorities.
There has been an ongoing problem over the last year of migrants making dangerous crossings on small craft to reach the UK.
A number have landed in places such as Folkestone, Romney Marsh and the Deal area.
Others have been picked up at sea by the Border Force and brought to safety in Dover.
If you can help in this investigation call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
More by this authorSam Lennon