Dozens have been arrested as police smashed an international smuggling ring that transported 1,100 Afghans and Syrians across Europe in specially-modified vehicles. 

Officers battered down the doors of homes in London, Birmingham and Gateshead in early morning raids after eleven people were taken into custody.

In what is thought to be one of the largest-scale operations in recent times, 26 people were arrested including 11 in England and eight in Belgium and seven in Bulgaria. 

Investigators also discovered 110 vehicles which had been specially adapted to stow migrants – mainly being transported from Afghanistan to Syria.   

One woman and a child were discovered in the back of a white transit van along with three men in a vehicle which had been fitted with a false wall.  

The U.K. Home Office said the operation involved suspects who allegedly transported migrants, most of them from Syria and Afghanistan, into Britain mainly from eastern Europe.

Eleven were taken into custody in London, Birmingham and Gateshead on suspicion of assisting illegal immigration, while a further 15 were arrested in Belgium and Bulgaria. 

The individuals are alleged to have been involved in transporting migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, across Europe and into the UK, often by concealing them in adapted vehicles.  

The UK operation was led by Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI), in partnership with National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force.

Seven of the arrests on suspicion of assisting illegal immigration were made in London, two in Birmingham, two in Gateshead, seven in Bulgaria and eight in Belgium. 

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