Garda unit plays role in bringing down people-smugglers in UK
Three members of an organised crime gang have been jailed after gardaí played a key role in dismantling a people- smuggling operation in the UK.
They were jailed after illegally smuggling migrants into the UK through Ireland, bringing to six the total number who have been sent to prison.
Gardaí said they were jailed for a total of nine years and five months at Isleworth Crown Court for "assisting the illegal immigration into the UK of Georgian nationals".
A further three members of the gang had been sentenced to a total of six years and six months in prison following earlier hearings, gardaí said.
Members of the force had worked closely with law enforcement partners in a two-year investigation.
Detective Chief Superintendent David Dowling of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) said: "This is an example of the co-operation between the relevant agencies in our efforts to target all types of criminal activity, including illegal immigration in both jurisdictions."
He said the bureau had collaborated and shared intelligence throughout this investigation "and will continue to work closely with all our law enforcement partners".
GNIB members were present in the UK during the search and arrest phase of the operation, supporting the UK's Immigration Enforcement agency's Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) department and co-ordinating any potential responses required here. The convictions followed an investigation started in June 2017, and was supported by the cross-border Joint Agency Task Force (JATF).
Immigration Enforcement CFI deputy director Dave Magrath said: "We are pleased that this organised crime gang, who were involved in a systematic attempt to help individuals evade the UK's immigration controls, has been dismantled.
"We work closely with law enforcement partners - particularly Border Force, PSNI in Northern Ireland and the GNIB in the Republic of Ireland - to tackle abuse of the Common Travel Area (CTA)."
The CTA is a special travel zone between Ireland, the UK, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Nationals of these countries can travel freely within the CTA without being subject to routine border controls. Documentation requirements are set by the carrier.
Irish and UK citizens have the right to live, travel, work and study within the CTA.
A Garda statement said the gang had sought to abuse the CTA "to smuggle people into the UK via Ireland".
The Joint Agency Task Force enables cross-border co-operation across a range of policing areas, as well as intelligence sharing.
As well as gardaí, its members also include the Revenue Commissioners, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the National Crime Agency, as well as the UK's Revenue and Customs.