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Vigilance call after Dublin Airport 'illegal immigration ring' broken up

A suspected illegal immigration ring has been broken up at Dublin Airport.

Three men, two of whom work for Aer Lingus, were arrested on Sunday night when gardai swooped on an alleged attempt to smuggle a man into Ireland using a catering truck.

It is believed the ring operated for a number of years with passengers avoiding immigration checks at the airport by walking off a plane before being brought to a secure zone airside and being taken out in a vehicle.

There are no security checks for vehicles or passengers leaving airports, only passport and customs inspections for passengers, staff and their bags, meaning some vehicles used by airlines could be driven out without being searched.

Some airline and airport staff also have permits to give them access through the airport from air side to land side without having to clear passport control.

Gardai said the arrested men, aged 61, 56 and 28, were detained at Ballymun and Coolock stations after an operation involving officers from the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the special detective unit.

It is understood the third man arrested is a suspected illegal immigrant.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Driscoll said the operation had prevented an attempt to bring someone into Ireland illegally.

"There's always a danger, and this is worldwide, that employees who have the capacity to facilitate illegal immigration will do certain acts that may assist in that regard," he said.

"It requires ongoing monitoring."

A series of follow-up searches, including of vehicles suspected of being used by the group, were being carried out.

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "We have a huge amount of contact with Interpol and Europol and I'm very confident that with the new arrangements now in place that database information is now being shared more effectively than before.

"Extreme vigilance is needed on an ongoing basis at Dublin Airport and indeed every point of entry into the country."

A spokesman for Aer Lingus said the airline is "co-operating fully" with gardai.

A spokesman the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) said: "Dublin Airport Authority has been in touch with the Garda National Immigration Bureau in relation to this matter and is assisting them with their inquiries."

Some 3,300 people were refused entry to Ireland last year by immigration officials.

In an unconnected incident last October, a three-year-old girl was among a group of five suspected Iraqi asylum seekers found in a refrigerated container in a haulage yard in Co Wexford.

It is believed people-smugglers were paid 5,000 euro for each person to be trafficked out of France to Ireland through Rosslare Europort.

It was the second incident of its kind in as many weeks last year.

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