channel: Playing with lives: Channel migrant smugglers net millions per kilometre – Times of India

CALAIS (FRANCE): The price to cross the English Channel varies according to the network of smugglers, between 3,000 and 7,000 euros. Often, the fee also includes a very short-term tent rental in the windy dunes of northern France and food cooked over fires that sputter in the rain that falls for more than half the month of November in the Calais region. Sometimes, but not always, it includes a life vest and fuel for the outboard motor.
And the people who collect the money — up to 300,000 euros ($432,000) per boat that makes it across the narrows of the Channel — are not the ones arrested in the periodic raids along the coastline. They are just what French police call “the little hands”. Now, French authorities are hoping to move up the chain of command. The French judicial investigation into Wednesday’s sinking that killed 27 people has been turned over to Paris-based prosecutors who specialise in organised crime.
To cross the 33-kilometre narrow point of the Channel, the rubber dinghies must navigate frigid waters and passing cargo ships. As of November 17, about 23,000 people had crossed successfully, according to Britain’s home office. France intercepted about 19,000 people. At a minimum, then, smuggling organisations this year have netted 69 million euros for the crossing — that’s 2 million euros per kilometre. “This has become so profitable for criminals that it’s going to take a phenomenal amount of effort to shift it,” the UK home office’s Dan O’Mahoney told parliament on November 17.
Between coronavirus and Brexit, “this is a golden age for the smugglers and organised crime because the countries are in disarray,” said Mimi Vu, an expert on Vietnamese migration who regularly spends time in the camps of northern France. “Think of it like a shipping and logistics company,” Vu said. The men handling the last leg are essentially just making the final delivery. If they are arrested, they are replaceable, she said.
The chain starts in the home country, usually with an agreed-upon price, arranged over social media. That fee tends to shift over the journey, but most willingly pay extra as their destination grows closer, she said. That’s precisely when the logistics grow more complicated. Channel crossings by sea were relatively rare until a few years ago, when French and British authorities locked down the area around the Eurotunnel entrance. The deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in the back of a container truck may also have contributed to a new reluctance to use that route.

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