Trafficking gangs send hundreds of migrants a day across the English channel in small boats from France resort to launching rubber 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 among a series of new tactics being deployed by smuggling gangs as migrant arrivals reach record highs.
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.
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 Novemberaccording 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 tragedy of November 24, 2021. A police photograph showed the suspected ringleader wearing a black t-shirt and baseball cap facing the wall with his 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.
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, about 40 miles south of Calais, evidence of this inventiveness has shown itself in recent weeks in repeated launches of dinghies by smuggling gangs from a point about five miles inland land, near a bridge over the main highway running 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. »