How do people-smuggling gangs exploit English Channel crossings?

Concerns about people smuggling rose after at least 31 people were killed in a rubber dinghy attempting to cross the Channel from France.

Authorities on both sides of the water have been playing cat and mouse with criminal gangs for years as the way they work changes with the times.

And while millions of pounds have been spent and dozens of people arrested, thousands of people continue to attempt the dangerous crossing, paying huge sums of money for it.

It is estimated that the cost of a place in a dinghy to the UK can vary widely, with reports ranging from 3,500 to 6,000 euros.

National Crime Agency (NCA) deputy director Andrea Wilson said: “We are trying to target and disrupt organized criminal groups involved in people smuggling at every step of the route.

“Much of this crime is outside of the UK, so we have increased our efforts to share information with law enforcement partners in France and beyond.”

A focus in the UK and abroad has been on cutting off supplies to dinghies and other vessels that could be used when crossing canals.

Inflatable raft sales in French cities have reportedly been banned and kayaks have been removed from sale in a shop in Calais.

However, a suspected smuggler gang targeted by the police last year is said to have bought rubber dinghies and engines from Germany and the Netherlands.

Over the past few years, inflatable boats that are used on crossings have grown larger and can now carry dozens of people – but not safely.

Interior Minister Priti Patel and other ministers have repeatedly promised to make crossing the English Channel “unprofitable”, but the NCA previously said it views organized immigration crime as a “continuing threat”.

Earlier this month, 18 people were arrested by French border police in the French regions of Calais, Le Havre and Paris during an international operation.

In addition, more than 100,000 euros in cash and bank accounts were seized.

The Organized Crime Organization (OCG) was involved in the delivery of boats that could each carry between 40 and 60 people, the NCA said.

The network would then arrange departures from the coast of northern France and recruit migrants to the various camps there.

Ms. Wilson said much of the NCA’s work has to be done in secret, but added, “We know it has an impact.

“We continue to seek ways to disrupt shipments to people smuggling OCGs and target those who knowingly do so.”

A joint British-French intelligence cell, which began in July 2020, has been involved in nearly 300 arrests related to small boat crossings, the Home Office said earlier this month.

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