Employees of Ireland’s flag-carrying airline helped a people smuggling gang make €18 million shipping migrants through Dublin Airport.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau have arrested two Aer Lingus workers who allegedly helped illegal immigrants sneak past customs by dressing them in their company’s clothing.
Migrants were handed Aer Lingus jackets while on board aircraft as part of the scam, and then taken to the airline’s staff area after landing. From here, they would have been free to use the airport’s staff exit to get landside without undergoing any customs checks.
It is thought the workers facilitated the plot for at least two years, and that they helped hundreds of migrants – mostly from China – enter Ireland illegally before they were caught.
The employees were detained alongside a Chinese national who is said by police to have entered the country illegally. Officials said they expect to make more arrests as the investigation progresses.
According to a report from Ireland’s Sunday World, sources claim each migrant the workers helped smuggle into the country paid up to €30,000, and that the organised crime group behind the plot shipped in as many as 600 people before police broke up the operation.
The source said the plot was backed by a coalition of criminal gangs from Eastern Europe, Italy and China.
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who heads up the force’s Special Crime Operations unit, said: “In recent times there has been a reconfiguration of personnel working the immigration control at Dublin Airport, which has involved an input of civilian staff attached to Irish Naturalisation and Immigration control booths.
“We have arrested three people, two of whom are employees of a carrier of passengers. One person is a potential illegal immigrant, who illegally entered the state, who was facilitated by our two suspects.
“There is always the danger that employees – and this is worldwide – who have the capacity to facilitate illegal immigration will do certain acts that may assist in that regard.
“The one thing for sure is that Ireland’s reputation would be greatly damaged if we didn’t show a capacity to continuously monitor our immigration control and detection of breaches where they took place.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline confirmed that two of its workers are being questioned by police, adding: “Aer Lingus is co-operating fully with An Garda Síochána in their investigation. As this is an on-going criminal investigation, we have no further comment to make.”
In an unrelated incident which took place in October last year, five Iraqi migrants were discovered in a shipping container that docked in Wexford. The group, which included a three-year-old girl, were thought to have been smuggled into Ireland from France on Irish Ferries’ Oscar Wilde ship.