How do smugglers’ gangs exploit the Channel crossings?


Concerns were expressed over human trafficking after at least 31 people died in a dinghy attempting to cross the Channel from France.

Authorities on both sides of the water have been playing cat and mouse with criminal gangs for years as the way they operate changes to reflect the times.

And while millions of pounds have been spent and tens of people arrested, thousands continue to attempt the perilous crossing, many paying huge sums to do so.

Estimates suggest that the cost of a place in a dinghy bound for Britain can vary widely, with ratios ranging from 3,500 to 6,000 euros.

Andrea Wilson, Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency (NCA), said: “We seek to target and disrupt organized crime groups involved in human trafficking every step of the way.

“Much of this crime is outside the UK, so we’ve stepped up our intelligence-sharing effort with law enforcement partners in France and beyond.”

One of the efforts in the UK and overseas has been to disrupt the supply of dinghies and other vessels that could be used for Channel crossings.

The sale of dinghies in French towns was reportedly banned, as kayaks were withdrawn from sale in a store in Calais.

However, a suspected smuggler gang targeted by police last year reportedly bought inflatable boats and motors from as far away as Germany and the Netherlands.

Over the past two years, inflatable boats used in crossings have grown larger and larger, now capable of carrying dozens of people, but not safely.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and other ministers have repeatedly pledged to make the Channel crossing “unsustainable”, but the NCA has previously said it views organized immigration crime as a “continuing threat”.

Earlier this month, an international operation saw 18 people arrested by French border police in the French regions of Calais, Le Havre and Paris.

More than 100,000 euros in cash and bank accounts were also seized.

The organized crime group (OCG) was involved in providing boats that could each carry between 40 and 60 people, the NCA said.

The network would then organize departures from the north coast of France, recruiting migrants in the various camps there.

Ms Wilson said much of the NCA’s work has to be done secretly, but added, “We know it has an impact.

“We continue to look for ways to disrupt the supply of human smuggler OCGs and target those who knowingly do so.”

A joint UK-France intelligence cell that started in July 2020 has been implicated in nearly 300 arrests linked to small boat crossings, the Home Office said earlier this month.

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