Six smugglers sentenced for charging migrants €1,500 to cross Channel

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Six smugglers have been sentenced for charging migrants €1,500 to cross the Channel from France into England. It was revealed that the criminal gang was smuggling boats, engines and life jackets into France before charging migrants an extortionate fee to make the perilous journey across the Channel. The National Crime Agency released photos of a boat found in a lock-up in their base in Douai, a city 25 miles south of Lille.

The members, three Iraqi nationals, one Afghan national, one Sudanese man and one Frenchman, were charging migrants around €1,500 to make the journey to British shores, prosecutors believe.

One of the Iraqi nationals is alleged to be the groups leader and chief organiser, controlling access to the lock-up in Douai, while an Afghan national is said to have acted as a recruiter for migrants.

The Sudanese national and the Frenchman are believed to have acted as drivers.

The British National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Anglo-French Joint Intelligence Cell (JIC/URO) launched their investigation in summer 2022 and identified a location where boats and equipment were being stored by the crime group.

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The organised immigration criminals sourced boats, engines and life jackets from Turkey, taking them to the premises in the northern French city.

The base was used as a staging post for the criminal gang, the intelligence agency revealed, as the group would later move boats from there to the French Cote d’Opale when they were required for migrant crossings.

The six criminals were arrested in October by French police.

NCA Deputy Director Oliver Higgins said: “This investigation and subsequent convictions demonstrates how the close co-operation between the NCA and our partners in France is bringing results in tackling people smuggling.

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“Much of the criminality involved in these small boat crossings lies outside the UK, so we have built up our intelligence sharing effort with law enforcement partners in France, Belgium and beyond.

“These smugglers don’t care about the safety of those they transport and are quite happy to put lives at grave risk for their own profits.

“This is why tackling them is such a priority for the NCA and our partners.”

The sentencing came as the total number of people crossing the Channel so far this year exceeded the combined total for January and February last year.

There had been 1,482 crossings by the end of February last year. A total of 204 migrants arrived in the UK on five boats on Tuesday, bringing the 2023 total so far to 1,646.

There were only 143 crossings in February last year due to stormy weather.

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