France, UK break Albanian immigrant trafficking ring

PARIS (Reuters) - French and British police have broken an illegal immigrant trafficking ring that was smuggling Albanians and Sri Lankans to Britain, France’s immigration ministry said on Monday.

Eighteen suspected migrant traffickers were arrested in France and eight more in Britain, the ministry said.

Hundreds of refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries head for northern France in the hope of hitching a ride to Britain, where they have relatives or where they believe it will be easier to find work.

The two countries signed an accord in 2009 under which London will pay more money towards tougher controls on illegal immigrants crossing from France.

Dozens of illegal immigrants were also arrested in the operation, each of whom paid between 2,000 euros to 5,000 euros for a passage, the ministry said in a statement.

It was the biggest bust since the countries agreed to beef up coordination in September, it added.

Hundreds of French police cleared an improvised camp dubbed “the jungle” in September where illegal migrants, mostly Afghans, regularly gathered near the port of Calais before trying to cross into Britain.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Daniel Flynn