Sunday

21st Jan 2018

British nationals among Calais migrant smugglers

  • French police reportedly arrested up to 100 Britons for migrant smuggling last year in Calais (Photo: Jey OH photographie)

Up to three thousand stranded migrants near Calais in France are relying on people smugglers to cross over into the UK.

Last year, some 100 British nationals were arrested in France in their attempt to shuffle them across the English Channel in cars and vans, reports the BBC.

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A French deputy prosecutor on Monday (22 June) said trafficking gangs are hiring more and more British nationals to become smugglers.

"The migrants pay a lot of money because it's sold as guaranteed passage to the UK,” the prosecutor told BBC's File on 4 programme.

A French lawyer said traffickers are approaching British students with outstanding loans or struggling bar staff and shop staff who are in need of money in order to help with smuggling operations.

Calais’ mayor Natacha Bouchart, for her part, wants the French government to provoke a “diplomatic incident” with UK authorities to make them step in. She said the UK should either join the EU's border-free Schengen area or leave the EU altogether.

“I am calling for a diplomatic incident with the British government. We are forced to endure situations that are inexplicable,” she told France Info Radio on Monday.

Migrant numbers in the shantytown three kilometres north of Calais have swelled from one thousand to three thousand in the past few months.

The French government is now installing electricity, toilets, and other structures to help cope with the needs. Unaccompanied children and minors are among the population. Some are as young as 12 or 13.

The announcement comes on the heels of a EU-led military campaign against migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean Sea. The broad plan is to destroy the business model by first gathering intelligence and then seizing and possibly sinking the boats.

“We seek to change the behavior of smugglers and we will do this through very many different means,” said a senior EU diplomat.

The assault will interact with Nato, the UN’s refugee agency, the UN OCHA, European commission’s ECHO, the African Union, the League of Arab States, and the EU’s border agency Frontex.

The EU’s border police Europol, along with Frontex, and other EU agencies, will be based in Sicily.

“If Frontex debriefers collect intelligence that can be used by police and justice investigation services then it will be handed over to Europol, to Eurojust,” Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri told reporters last month.

Britain is sending six of its officers to the Europol cell in Sicily from its National Crime Agency to help disrupt the smuggling gangs.

EU leaders will be in Brussels at the end of the week to discuss broader plans by the European commission to resettle refugees and relocate asylum seekers.

A draft document seen by Italian news agency ANSA says member states will have a one month deadline to agree to a "temporary and exceptional" relocation of asylum seekers.

Rights NGOs face fresh threats in EU

While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.

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