'Europe's most wanted'

Notorious people-smuggler arrested in Sulaymaniyah

SULAYMANIYAH — The Kurdistan Region Security Agency has confirmed the arrest of human smuggler Barzan Majeed, known as “Scorpion,” in Sulaymaniyah on Tuesday. Salam Abdul Khaliq, a spokesperson for the agency, said the arrest followed an Interpol request.

Majeed has been linked to a large-scale smuggling network transporting people across the English Channel to the UK, often via perilous routes resulting in fatalities. The arrest comes just days after a BBC report was published on the suspect, for which Majeed himself was interviewed.

“Barzan Majeed was also among the individuals wanted in the Kurdistan region,” a Kurdistan Regional Government Ministry of Interior source told 964media.

The source also recalled last year’s arrest of Bashdar Mina, another internationally sought fugitive, in Ranya while he was attempting to renew his passport. “Anyone within our jurisdiction who is identified and wanted will be arrested.”

The source added, “According to Iraqi law, these individuals will be tried here. Although he is wanted in countries like Norway and the United Kingdom, Iraqi law does not permit the extradition of its nationals to foreign countries.”

Despite this ban, the first ever extradition of suspects from Iraq to the United Kingdom were carried out in 2009 after legal advice to London’s Metropolitan Police said the ban was not “insuperable”. The two men, who had fled to the Kurdistan Region, were suspected of being involved with the murder of British-Kurdish woman Banaz Mahmod in the UK.

Majeed has allegedly run a significant smuggling operation into the UK for several years, using boats and lorries to control a major part of the route across the English Channel.

Majeed first illegally entered the UK in 2006 at age 20. After his asylum request was denied a year later, he remained underground in the UK for several years. According to BBC reports, Majeed, dubbed “Europe’s most wanted migrant-smuggler,” was eventually jailed for offenses including firearm possession and drug-related crimes.

When the BBC asked how many migrants he had transported, Majeed responded, “Maybe a thousand, maybe 10,000. I don’t know, I didn’t count.”

Deported back to Iraq in 2015, Majeed is suspected of resuming his smuggling activities soon after. He allegedly took over from his older brother, who had been imprisoned in Belgium.

From 2016 to 2021, Majeed’s group reportedly controlled a significant part of the smuggling operations between Europe and the UK.

Data from international bodies like the International Organization For Migration indicates that human smuggling operations have led to the deaths of thousands of migrants in recent years while attempting to cross international waters. Notably, last month, five people died off the coast of France, including a seven-year-old girl, while en route to the UK.

Majeed’s network reportedly charged about 6,000 pounds per person, exploiting vulnerable individuals with promises of safe passage to the UK from France via overcrowded boats across the English Channel.