Smugglers use new tactics to evade capture

The smuggling gangs who send hundreds of migrants across the English Channel every day in small boats from France resort to launching dinghies on inland rivers to avoid police surveillance and capture.

The strategy of starting the perilous inland crossings by placing dinghies in rivers flowing into the sea in the Calais region is one of a series of new tactics deployed by smuggling gangs as migrant arrivals are at record levels.

French authorities said criminal networks were also increasingly bringing boats by sea to embarkation points on secluded beaches, forcing migrants and refugees to wade or swim in freezing waters to waiting ships. about 10 meters offshore. These so-called “water taxis” allow smugglers to evade police who in the past have been able to intercept inflatable boats as migrants attempt to transport the boats from hideouts in the dunes.

These tactics are the latest developments in an old game of cat and mouse between authorities and traffickers that saw the arrest in Iraq of a suspected ringleader of the international smuggling networks that smuggle tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers on the French coasts.

TOPSHOT - Migrants await help from the vessel Abeille Languedoc after their boat's generator failed in French waters as they attempted to illegally cross the English Channel to Britain off the coast of Boulogne-sur-Mer , in northern France, May 9, 2022 - The Abeille Languedoc is an ocean-going tugboat specializing in the rescue of ships in distress, moored in Cherbourg for 26 years, monitoring the English Channel between Cotentin and Pas-de -Calais.  (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY/AFP) (Photo by SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images)
Of the 4% of the total number of asylum applications that were processed for people arriving by small boat in 2021, 85% were granted refugee status or other protection status (Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP)

The arrested man is believed to have been involved in the deaths of at least 27 people when their dinghy sank in the English Channel last November, according to local media.

The man, who was detained in the town of Ranya, an hour’s drive from the Iraqi border with Iran, is “a leading smuggler” involved in the tragedy, according to the Kurdish media, Rudaw.

A group of around five men are now believed to be behind the smuggling operation before the November 24, 2021 tragedy. A police photograph shows the suspected ringleader wearing a black t-shirt and baseball cap. baseball facing the wall, hands clasped behind his back in a pair of handcuffs.

Britain has claimed a number of recent successes in its efforts to crack down on trafficking gangs, which are expected to earn at least £50million a year from cross-Channel small boat crossings.

Last month the National Crime Agency highlighted the arrest in Spain of the leaders of a suspected Albanian smuggling gang, who allegedly sent hundreds of migrants to the UK via regular ferries leaving ports in northern Spain , as evidence of the increasingly circuitous routes used by the gangs. Spanish investigators said the Albanian gang took its passengers on “smuggling tours” across the European Union to embarkation points such as the port of Bilbao.

Some 38,000 people have arrived in the UK via Channel crossings so far this year, up from 28,536 last year (Picture: Getty)

Albanians have become the largest national group arriving via the small boat route in recent months, rising from 54 in 2020 to 2,165 in the first six months of this year. Ministers said the sudden increase appears to be linked to the growing influence of Albanian criminal gangs over trafficking in northern France and the substantial hold Albanian gangsters have over drug trafficking in Britain, particularly regarding cannabis.

Law enforcement officials recognize that smuggling rings, which increasingly cooperate between different nationalities, have proven adept at expanding their sinister trade.

So far this year, some 38,000 people have arrived in the UK via Channel crossings, up from 28,536 last year. In just three days last week, 1,766 people were detected making the crossing in 41 boats. In September, just under 8,000 people crossed the English Channel in small boats.

On the Canche, some 40 miles south of Calais, evidence of this inventiveness has shown itself in recent weeks in repeated launches of canoes by smuggling gangs from a point about five miles to the east. inland, near a bridge over the main highway along the northern French coast. Two local mayors have told French media that there have been increasing incidents since this summer with traffickers also trying to launch boats on treacherous sands near the small port of Etaples, which is currently in outside the area regularly monitored by the authorities for migrant crossings.

Most launches appear to have been carried out with only one or two people on board, suggesting that the dinghies were then used for the dangerous new “taxi” system.

A French police source said: ‘The traffickers don’t really care about the people they smuggle. The [new tactics] are a way to maximize the money they earn. Before, it was possible to prevent a boat from entering the water. So they are now making the migrants go to the boat already in the water. It doesn’t matter to them that the passengers are already wet and cold before the start of the crossing. »

Comments are closed.