The deputy prosecutor of the French town Calais, Julie Colaert, has told the BBC that in the last two years the number of English smugglers brought to the main court of Calais on human trafficking charges has increased dramatically and that she witnesses up to 10 UK citizens facing such charges every month. Exact numbers cannot be provided since France does not hold statistics based on nationality.
France’s northern town of Calais is a gateway to Britain since it has an active seaport and it houses the continental side of the famous “Channel Tunnel,” an undersea railway that can also transport personal cars between France and the UK.
"Trafficking gangs are employing them [UK citizens] to take people across in their own cars,” said Colaert. According to her, the migrants pay a large sum of money to human traffickers, who then employ ordinary UK citizens to take the migrants into their private vehicles while crossing the English Channel.
Car and van drivers are recent targets of human traffickers rather than truck drivers since the chances of private vehicles being searched are lower. The migrants see this as a solid opportunity to enter the UK without being caught.
Recently, a man named Basir Haji received a 12-month sentence for participating in the act of “facilitating the entrance of foreign citizens in circumstances incompatible with human dignity,” he was carrying two Iraqi men inside the trunk of his car.
Basir Haji’s lawyer, Emmanuelle Osmont, detailed the modus operandi of the smuggling gangs. Apparently mafia organisations now target those who are financially struggling, such as students and shopkeepers, and offer extra income – around 3,520 euros (2.500 pounds) per trip. The targets are convinced that the risk is minimal and when needed, the gangs threaten the targets and their families to ensure cooperation. Osmont says “Once you start working with them, they'll never let you go.”
When caught, the charges for such an offence vary between six to 24 months in prison.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees recently announced that almost 60 million people have been displaced by conflict and persecution around the world. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children. The numbers are growing and accelerating significantly. In 2014, an average of 42,500 people became refugees, asylum-seekers or internally displaced every day.