Judicial officials said a series of morning raids took place simultaneously in Belgium and France on Tuesday as part of two criminal investigations.
An investigation was launched following the investigation into the deaths of the 39 migrants discovered in October inside a refrigerated container of a truck which had been transported to England.
Police investigating the case discovered that the 31 men and eight women victims were all from Vietnam and were between 15 and 44 years old, including three minors.
Police said the migrants died from a combination of lack of oxygen and overheating in an enclosed space. The victims came from poor villages in Vietnam and reportedly paid smugglers to take them on the risky journey to a better life abroad.
Last month, the truck driver pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a London court.
In Belgium, the federal prosecutor’s office said that the investigation had quickly established the route taken by the victims before they got into the truck and that some of them had remained in Belgium before their departure.
Tuesday’s big police operation was organized with a cross-border investigation team coordinated by the European crime-fighting agency Eurojust, which included Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said the 13 people arrested in France were suspected of being part of a criminal organization that had been hosting and transporting dozens of migrants from Southeast Asia every day for several months.
Sixteen searches took place on Tuesday in the Brussels region, including in safe houses, resulting in the arrest of 11 Vietnamese citizens and two Moroccans. Five of them have been charged with trafficking in aggravated migrants, membership in a criminal organization and forgery.
Eurojust said five migrants were found during the Belgian raids.
Suspected smugglers face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to € 150,000 per identified victim.