POLICE in France and Belgium have arrested 26 suspects as part of an investigation into human trafficking across Europe that was prompted by the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry container in Essex.

Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, said on Wednesday that house searches were carried out in Paris and in the Brussels area on Tuesday, with 13 people arrested in Belgium and 13 in France.

They are suspected of being part of a criminal organisation which is facilitating the transit of Vietnamese migrants through Belgium and France towards the UK.

Europol set up an information-sharing operational taskforce after the bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in a lorry container on an industrial estate in the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays on October 23 last year.