Inside gardai’s crackdown at Dublin port as gangs smuggle people into Ireland
IT’S one of the biggest problems facing the European Union in 2021. The ongoing migrant crisis shows no sign of ending anytime soon with desperate families continuing to put their lives at risk every day as they attempt to flee war, terror and poverty.
Migrants from countries such as Syria and Ethiopia continue to take great risks to get to Ireland
Just last month, over 400 people crossed the English Channel from France in search of a better life in three days. But when it comes to Ireland, migrants from countries such as Syria and Ethiopia continue to take great risks by hiding in containers destined for Dublin Port.
As part of their efforts to get here, families often hand over EUR10,000 to gangs similar to the mob run by criminal Ronan Hughes who’s now serving time in the UK after eight women and 31 men were found dead inside one of his containers in Purfleet, Essex, on October 23, 2019.
Earlier this year, six people, who are now seeking asylum, were discovered in a trailer that was shipped to Ireland from Zebrugge. And the Irish Sun was given an exclusive insight into the role played by Store Street Garda Station’s Immigration and Policing Unit at Dublin Port – the second busiest point of entry into Ireland after Dublin Airport – when we joined them last week. At present, their role is to search containers and trucks for migrants arriving into Dublin from mainland Europe.
As Ireland is the only English-speaking country in the European Union, it’s seen as an attractive destination for migrants. But it’s also used by migrants as a way of getting into the UK. A number of migrants found by gardai also believed they had landed in the UK.
High on the garda team’s agenda are the trucks arriving from Cherbourg and Calais because of the worsening migrant crisis at these ports in recent months. Once landed, containers and trucks are identified for search along with the spot-checks that also take place. Also checked are the containers that are shipped into the port and left in a yard for collection.
Once searched by gardai, they are then re-sealed to show they have been searched and can’t be accessed.
Other containers that have been bolted by haulage firms before collection are also opened by gardai to ensure there are no migrants inside. During our visit to the port, we watched how gardai searched a lorry filled with furniture and in another with other household items. The vehicles were brought into a special area where they would be searched for people.
Some of the main lorries searched include those with ‘curtain’ sides – which make it easier for a stowaway to climb inside the lorry. Once lorries have been searched in the morning, the team waits on other vessels to arrive into the busy port. As part of their remit at the port, the garda team also works closely with Revenue and Customs, Interpol and Europol.
Other European law enforcement agencies would also send intelligence if they have suspicions of lorries bringing people into the country.
The team is also aware of the new measures crime gangs are using as they attempt to smuggle people in the country. These include false roofs and compartments being installed in containers and lorries. And they also work closely with their colleagues in the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and other garda units if they identify attempts by crime gangs to smuggle drugs or weapons into the country.
This has included monitoring the port for criminals who might be at the centre of European Arrest Warrants. And they have also provided intelligence to their colleagues on major crime figures such as Fat Freddie Thompson who have previously used the port to leave and also to return to Ireland. They also worked closely with the UK police investigating the deaths of eight women and 31 men who were found inside the container in Purfleet, Essex.
On that occasion, gardai seized a lorry at the Port on October 26, 2019, that was linked to the gang.
In the run up to Christmas, the team will also be on the look-out for any counterfeit goods being shipped through the port. And they have also recovered power tools that were stolen by organised burglary gangs who were attempting to ship them to the UK. Other items that have been recovered included stolen car parts, caravans and trailers.
On another occasion, they also worked closely with UK police in catching a robbery suspect. Gardai established that the hood was a foot passenger on a ferry to Holyhead and informed their colleagues in the UK. Once he landed, he was immediately arrested and sent back to Ireland to stand trial.
Im 2015, gardai at Dublin Port also established how stolen car parts were being sent to criminal gangs in Lithuania.
Inspector Larry Brady runs the team of three Sergeants and twenty seven guards at the port under the command of Supt Paul Costello. Insp Brady, who has 39 years policing experience, told how the current migrant crisis was a “top priority” for frontline gardai at Dublin Port. The senior officer said: “At Dublin Port the Garda team is the first point of contact for people entering the State.
“We put a lot of effort and work into ensuring the interaction is as friendly and welcoming as possible, while completing our job. “The movement of persons into the State by illegal means is one of our top priorities and a number of persons are regularly trying to enter the State. “I think the spot checks that take place also act as a deterrent to anyone attempting to smuggle people into the country illegally.
“A lot of these people have come from diverse backgrounds and look to enter Ireland for all sorts of reasons.
“We treat them with respect and look at their medical needs if they have travelled to Ireland in a container for example. We then deal with the practical impact of their arrival into the State. Each case is treated on its own merits.”
Supt Costello told how the welfare of migrants trying to reach Ireland was a key priority for the team at Dublin Port. Supt Costello added: “The first function of gardai at Dublin Port is the immgration of people. “They are all immigration officers and they are aware of the welfare and the human rights of migrants who take extraordinary risks to get to this country.
“The search of containers and lorries is very important and if people are discovered their well being is paramount. “In recent times at the port, the garda team was handed extra responsibility with checking health regulations during the pandemic and to ensure everyone was compliant with Covid 19 restrictions. “The team at Dublin Port have constantly demonstrated dedication and commitment throughout the pandemic and the extra workload placed on them.”
Between 2019 and 2020, 22 people sought asylum at Dublin Port. During this time, 321 individuals were “refused leave to land”. These included people who did not have visas, the appropriate paperwork, stowaways or had previously landed without the proper paperwork.
On each occasion, the individuals are sent back to the last port of origin.
In the run up to Christmas, the team will also be on the look-out for any counterfeit goods being shipped through the portCredit: Padraig O’Reilly – Commissioned by The Sun Dublin
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