French police have arrested 15 suspected members of an international migrant smuggling union that has helped people illegally cross the Channel to the UK.
Iraqi Kurds, Romanians, Pakistanis and Vietnamese nationals are among those arrested.
Officers said they approached migrants in camps in Grende-Synthe, a suburb of Dunkirk in northern France, and encouraged them to make the dangerous journey to Britain in small boats.
Police began their investigation in October 2020 and suspect the network helped at least 250 migrants travel from France to England in canoes that can carry up to 60 people at a time.
Passengers reportedly paid up to â¬ 6,000 (Â£ 5,050) for passage to Britain and smugglers reportedly made a total profit of around â¬ 3million, illegal migration branch of police said French, OCRIEST, in a press release. declaration.
“It was a network of hardened criminals who were well organized thanks to the complicity of drivers, secret donors and people who were on the lookout for the police”, explained to AFP Xavier Delrieu, who led the ‘investigation.
The 15 were arrested last week and around 40,000 euros in cash seized.
According to French authorities, 31,500 people have tried to leave for Britain since the start of the year and 7,800 people have been rescued at sea, figures which have doubled since August.
French law enforcement has rushed to the network amid mounting tensions between Britain and France over the migrant crisis, as record numbers of arrivals continue to pour into the former EU member state.
France accused the UK of failing to keep its pledge to send funds to tackle migrant smuggling gangs, while UK officials claimed the French were too passive on the issue.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel have come under intense pressure from Conservative Party figures to step up the response to the crisis and stem the tide of boats.
More than 25,000 people have now arrived illegally across the Channel this year, already triple the figure recorded in 2020, according to official British data.
The problem has been added to mounting post-Brexit tensions between Britain and France, with a dispute over fishing rights still unresolved.
Updated: 23 November 2021, 11:05