Death of Canal Migrants: Net Smugglers Millions Per km

CALAIS, FRANCE – Prices to cross the English Channel vary depending on the smugglers’ network, ranging from 3,000 to 7,000 euros.

Usually, this fee also includes very short-term tent rentals in the windswept sand dunes of northern France and food cooked over a fire that broke out during more than half a month of November rain in the Calais region. .

Sometimes, but not always, it includes life jackets and outboard engine fuel.

And the collectors — up to 300,000 euros ($432,000) per boat passing through the Channel’s straits — are not the ones caught in periodic raids along the coast.

They are just what the French police call “small hands.”

Now, the French authorities are hoping to up the chain of command. The French judiciary’s investigation into the sinking of a ship that left 27 people dead on Wednesday has been handed over to prosecutors specializing in organized crime based in Paris.

To cross the 33-kilometer (20-mile) narrow point of the Channel, dinghy must navigate icy waters and pass cargo ships.

As of November 17, 23,000 people have successfully given birth, according to the UK Home Office. France has intercepted about 19,000 people.

At that time, at a minimum, the smuggling syndicates this year collected 69 million euros for the crossing – that is, 2 million euros per kilometer.

Dan O’Mahoney of the UK Home Office told Parliament on November 17: “This has become so beneficial to criminals that it will take an extraordinary amount of effort to change it”.

Between coronavirus and Brexit, “this is a golden age for smugglers and organized crime because countries are in turmoil,” said Mimi Vu, a Vietnamese migration expert who regularly spends time in camps in northern France, said.

“Think of it like a shipping and logistics company,” Vu said. The men handling the last leg are basically just making the last serve. If they are caught, they are replaceable, she said.

Frontex, the European border agency, echoes that in a 2021 risk report that describes operations leaders as managers “who can coordinate crime business remotely, while mainly expose low-level crimes related to transportation and logistics for law enforcement to detect.”

The chain starts in the host country, often at an negotiable price, arranged on social media. That fee tends to vary by itinerary, but most are willing to pay more as their destination gets closer, she said. That’s exactly when logistics grew more complex.

Traffic through the canal by sea was relatively rare until a few years ago, when the French and British authorities locked down the area around the entrance to the Eurotunnel.

The deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in the back of a container truck could also be the cause of the new reluctance to use that route.

But the first attempts were disorganized, using small inflatable materials and even kayaks purchased at the local Decathlon sports store.

Nando Sigona, professor of international migration and forced displacement at the University of Birmingham, said: “In the beginning, it was always the pioneers. “But once it started to seem to work for some people, you could see the bigger players coming in.”

Police say police have cracked down on boat sales locally, and larger boats have begun to emerge, pulled by dozens of cars and trucks inside with German and Belgian tags, police said.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said a car with a German tag had been seized in connection with the investigation.

Nikolai Posner, of aid group Utopia 56, said police raids on camps to pull tents and disrupt operations gave smugglers another opportunity to make money.

The fee now includes short-term tent rentals and access to basic food, often cooked over an open fire.

“There is one solution to stop all of this, which is the deaths, the smugglers, the camps. Let’s create a humanitarian corridor,” Posner said. He said asylum claims would be easier on both sides of the Channel.

Due in part to Brexit and the coronavirus, the number of people deported from the UK this year has dropped to just five, according to the Home Office.

Vu said those intercepted by British border forces at sea or by land end up in migration centres, but often only come back in contact with smuggling networks and end up working on the black market.

That is the complaint in France, where the UK Home Secretary has said British employers are more than happy to hire under the hood, providing another financial incentive.

Ludovic Hochart, a police officer based in Calais in the Union, said: “If they are in Calais, then they have to get to the UK, and the only people who can guarantee their passage are the smuggling networks. this”. “The impetus to come to England is stronger than the dangers that await.”

On Sunday, ministers from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and EU officials will meet to find a solution. However, with France and Britain at odds over migration, fishing and how to rebuild their working relationship after Brexit, there was one notable absence: a British delegation.

For Vu, it was a missed opportunity: “This is a transnational crime. It spans many borders and it can’t be solved by just one country.”


Hinnant reported from Paris. Frank Jordans contributed from Berlin.


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