English Channel migrant deaths: Smugglers net millions per kilometer

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The price to cross the English Channel varies between 3,000 and 7,000 euros ($3,380 and $8,000) according to the smugglers’ network, although there are rumors of discounts.

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Often, the fee includes the rent of a very short tent in the windy dunes of northern France and a meal cooked over a fire in the Calais region in the rain that lasts for more than half a month of November. Sometimes, but not always, this includes a life vest and fuel for the outboard motor.

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And those who collect the money – up to 300,000 euros ($432,000) per boat that makes it across the narrow course of the Channel – are not the people who have been arrested in periodic raids along the coastline. They are what the French police call “little hands”.

Now, French officials are hoping to move up the chain of command. The French judicial investigation into Wednesday’s drowning, in which 27 people were killed, has been handed over to Paris-based prosecutors who specialize in organized crime.

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In order to cross the 33-kilometre (20-mile) narrow point of the channel, rubber dinghies must cross cold water and cargo ships. As of 17 November, 23,000 people had successfully passed, according to the UK Home Office. France stopped about 19,000 people.

At least, then, smuggling organizations have netted 69 million euros ($77.7 million) for the crossing this year – that’s 2 million euros per kilometer.

“It has become so profitable to criminals that it will take an unprecedented effort to move it,” Dan O’Mahony of the UK Home Office told parliament on 17 November.

Between the coronavirus and Brexit, “this is a golden age for smugglers and organized crime as countries are in disarray,” said Mimi Vu, an expert on Vietnamese migration who regularly spends time in camps in northern France.
“Think of it like a shipping and logistics company,” Wu said.

The leg could cost around 4,000 euros ($4,500) through central Europe, according to Austrian officials, who on Saturday killed 15 people suspected of smuggling Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian migrants into the country in van loads of 12 to 15 people. announced the arrest. Police said the suspects transported more than 700 people at a total cost of more than 2.5 million euros ($2.8 million). In this network, migrants were bound for Germany.

The alleged traffickers – from Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan – were recruited through advertisements on social media in their home countries offering to work as drivers for 2,000–3,000 euros ($2,250–3,380) per month. Was.

The men handling the final stage are essentially just doing the final delivery. If arrested, they can be replaced, Wu said.

European border agency Frontex echoed that the 2021 risk report described operational leaders as managers who are “capable of conducting criminal business remotely, while keeping low-level criminals mostly involved in transportation and logistics.” Expose for law enforcement to trace.”

The series begins in the home country, usually with an agreed-upon price, which is arranged on social media. He said that this fee shifts on the journey, but as their destination gets closer, they voluntarily pay the extra. This is fine when the logistics get more complicated.

Channel crossings by sea were relatively rare until a few years ago, when French and British authorities closed the area around the Eurotunnel entrance. The deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in the back of a container truck may have also contributed to a renewed reluctance to use that route.

But first attempts using small inflatables and even kayaks bought at the local Decathlon sports store were in vain.

“In the beginning, it’s always the lead,” said Nando Sigona, professor of international migration and forced displacement at the University of Birmingham. “But once it started to look like it was working for many people, you could see the big players get involved.”

A Sudanese expatriate who spoke only his name Yasir had been trying for three years to go to Britain

Shaking his head about the tragedy, he pointed out that other methods of smuggling, such as hiding on trucks, were also dangerous. “You can break a leg,” he said. “you can die.”

And as dangerous as sea voyage may prove, many migrants found it safer than other options. The only thing stopping it is the cost, which he had heard was 1,200 euros ($1,350).

“We don’t have any money,” said Yasir. “If I had money, I would go on a boat.”

Police cracked down on local boat purchases, and large inflatable goods pulled by dozens of cars and vans with German and Belgian tags began to appear, police said. French Interior Minister Gerald Darminin said a car with a German tag had been confiscated in connection with the investigation.

Nikolai Posner of aid group Utopia 56 said police raids to demolish tents and disrupt operations have given smugglers another opportunity to make money. Now, the fee includes a short-term tent rental and access to basic meals, usually cooked over an open fire.

“There is only one way to stop all this, the deaths, the smugglers, the camps. Build a humanitarian corridor,” Posner said. He added that asylum requests should be easy on either side of the channel.

Due to Brexit and the coronavirus, evictions from the UK this year have been limited to just five people, according to the Home Office. Wu said people held by British border forces at sea or on land end up in migrant centres, but usually return to exposure to smuggling networks and work in black market jobs.

That’s the complaint in France, where the interior minister said British employers are more than happy to hire under the table, providing another financial incentive.

“If they are in Calais, it is to go to Britain, and the only people who can guarantee them passing are the smugglers’ networks,” said Ludovic Hochart, a Calais-based police officer from the Alliance union. “The motivation to go to England is stronger than the dangers that await.”

On Sunday officials from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Union will meet to find a solution. But, with France and Britain seeking to rebuild working relations on migration, fishing and post-Brexit, there is one notable absence: a British delegation.

For Wu, it’s a missed opportunity: “It’s an international crime. It extends to many borders and it is not a matter of any one country to solve it.”


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