Channel crossings: smugglers ‘move to Britain, rent houses and invest their profits in British businesses’ | world news

An individual at the heart of cross-Channel people smuggling tells Sky News that most smugglers choose to settle in Britain and invest their profits there.

The man, whose identity we won’t reveal, gives details on how the smugglers operate, the rationale behind their criminality, their business model, their relationship with French police and how trafficking could be affected by government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

In a few days, the government should publish new laws to stop small boats crossing the Channel, with illegal immigration remaining one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s priorities.

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Q&A with a smuggler

This is the first time that a cross-Channel smuggler has accepted a face-to-face television interview. The man, who is Kurdish, spoke to Sky News in great secrecy.

The man, whom we call Garmiyani, said: “Three quarters of the smugglers are in Britain. The money they make here [in northern France], they invest in companies there – in Britain. They live there, life is easier.

“Whatever their nationality, three-quarters of smugglers live in the UK. They are happier there. They rent houses under someone else’s name and drive cars without a licence.

Smugglers recruit clients in migrant camps in northern France

Garmiyani said he was aware of the British government’s drive to break the business model of human trafficking and the proposal to send newcomers to Rwanda, but appeared unfazed.

He said: “I swear that even if they send people to the Amazon, people will come to Britain – it’s their wish to go to Britain.

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A smuggler speaks to Sky News

“It will decrease, but not to the point that refugees won’t come to Britain. People will still try. People will still come.”

Learn more:
How the police exposed the dark world of human trafficking
Six men jailed for human trafficking after joint operation
A record number of Channel crossings in 2022

He said smugglers are playing “hide and seek” with French police as they attempt to launch boats from beaches.

“The police are watching them, and they are also watching the police,” he said. “The smugglers hide and wait for the police to leave, then they do their job [launching the boats]which takes about half an hour.”

He dismissed the claim that French police were too relaxed in their approach, saying “no, that doesn’t happen… they do their job and arrest people.

“It gets harder… In the past it was just [migrants hiding on] trucks. Now the police know where they are sending people from, so they have identified the locations.”

Crackdown on smugglers is a top priority for Rishi Sunak's government
Smugglers seek clients in migrant camps in northern France

Garmiyani said the smugglers do not see themselves as criminals, but rather as business operators.

He said: “We work and earn money – even helping people. The smugglers don’t see it as smuggling. They see it as another job, like working in a restaurant or a hair salon. Our job is to transfer people to the other side.”

He said migrants arriving at camps near Calais and Dunkirk would be quickly introduced to intermediaries acting on behalf of smugglers, and then choose with whom to leave.

“If there are too many migrants, the prices go up. If the number of people is low, then the prices go down. It goes from €500 to €2,500.”

He also said smugglers would charge different prices depending on the migrant’s nationality: “Albanians pay more, Pakistanis pay more.”

In the north of France, the smugglers are people in the shadows.

They are blamed for the growing number of asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats. Blamed, too, for the dozens of people who died in crashes.

In the migrant camps that spring up around the coast, they are always mentioned, but never seen or identified. And so far no one has been able to sit down and talk to any of them.

Setting up the interview took a long time and required intermediaries, trust and persuasion. And no, we didn’t pay him to talk to us.

He is Kurdish and I guess he is in his thirties. He had a curious mixture of nervousness and self-confidence. I suspect there’s an art to being low-key for the most part, but memorable for those you want to remember.

He smiled when I asked him if he would be happy to put a member of his family on board one of these dinghies. He asked me why I was asking this question here, in France, when “three quarters of the smugglers are in Great Britain”.

His claim was that the boat trip across the English Channel was easy compared to other experiences of these migrants.

The ideas were compelling – the prices, the way intermediaries connected migrants with smugglers, and the grudging respect for French police.

It left as it arrived – leisurely, no frills. A handshake, a word of thanks, and he was gone. Apparently he had a busy evening ahead of him – the winds were light and the sea was calm. The boats would be launched in a few hours.

He claimed that some cross-Channel trips are organized by families who team up to buy their own boat and motor, and added that many smugglers waste their profits on “alcohol, drugs and gambling”.

But he insisted he only allowed boats to leave when the winds were light. He was scathing to others, including the people who organized the Channel crossing at the end of 2021 which resulted in the death of 31 migrants.

“Some of the smugglers don’t have a conscience,” he said. “They are mafias, not smugglers, and only do it for the money.

“They know the weather is not good but they are always playing with people’s lives. That night of the incident was one of those nights.

“Those who did – they have no heart.”


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