Community, Diaspora and Immigration
Gang that charged illegal immigrants £4,000 for ‘guaranteed arrival in UK’ is arrested by French border police
- People paid £800-£1,000 to sneak from Calais, Dunkirk or Belgium in the back of a lorry, and £4,000 to travel in specially-built compartment
- It is the ninth people-smuggling gang to be disbanded this year
- Follows attack on UK by Calais mayor for being ‘immigrant magnet’
For a premium rate, at around four times more, immigrants can travel in specially-built compartments in commercial trucks.
French police today arrested eight suspects connected to the unit, the ninth people-smuggling network to be disbanded this year.
During a raid on a flat in Calais, police found the gang of eight, 21,000 euros, £5,000, a machete and a shotgun.
Under questioning, the suspects, aged between 18 and 37, refused to admit responsibility, blaming each other, police revealed.
If found guilty of possessing firearms and aiding illegal immigrants, they face ten years in jail and fines of up to £650,000.
Most of them had Italian passports and were living in France legally.
Earlier this week, 10 desperate migrants who were trying to get into Britain illegally were rescued from the back of a refrigerated lorry in northern France.
The six women and four men, who claimed to be from war-torn Eritrea, locked themselves into the truck, where temperatures dropped to –4C.
They were only found because one managed to get a call out to police on his mobile phone and mumble: ‘Help!’
French police managed to track them using a GPS tracking system in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Six Eritreans were rescued from a similar refrigerated truck last August, and in June 2000, the bodies of 58 illegal immigrants were found in the back of lorry in Dover.
The latest bout of arrests comes just days after French officials blasted Britain for fuelling people-smuggling, estimating 15,000 people – up to 40 a day – sneak into the UK undetected.
In a blistering attack on the UK, Philippe Mignonet, deputy mayor of Calais, said the country remains ‘a magnet for illegal immigrants’ and does very little to stop them.
He added hundreds of foreigners were sleeping rough in Calais before stowing away aboard lorries and ferries.
‘According to our estimations, depending on the night, between 10, 20, even 40 are getting through,’ said Mr Mignonet.