Migration trafficking in Calais: up to seven years in prison at the trial of a vast network of smugglers

These sentences were pronounced on Wednesday by the Lille court against 21 members of an international network of smugglers who organized the illegal transport of migrants by truck between France and England from 2016 to 2019.

Sentences of up to seven years’ imprisonment were handed down on Wednesday in Lille against 21 members of an international network of smugglers who organized the illegal transport of migrants by truck between France and England in 2016 to 2019.

The investigation began with the arrest in August 2018 of a Romanian heavy truck driver in the port of Calais following the discovery of three Kurdish migrants hidden in the cockpit, in the chests under the berth.

The use of the telephone lines had made it possible to trace back to several Romanian nationals and British numbers located in the vicinity of Grande-Synthe (North), and to the alleged sponsors of the network: Silviu-Ciprian B., domiciled in Romania – who will be tried in November – and Hojjat N., domiciled in Great Britain.

Smugglers mainly of Romanian nationality

The latter was sentenced this Wednesday to seven years in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros. During the investigation, Hojjat N. was identified as the main sponsor on the British side, which collected money from migrants, gave instructions and paid smugglers.

Twenty other people in the network were also sentenced to terms ranging from suspended to six years in prison. The court declared the final ban from French territory for 19 of them.

Mainly Romanians, for some Iranians, Iraqis or Afghans, most were drivers, couriers or managers of Romanian transport companies involved.

259 passes, 167 passed

During the investigation, the tapping set up by the justice system on many lines made it possible to count 259 passages, including 167 successful, making it possible to estimate the number of migrants who arrived in England at 327, for 140 intercepted in France. These tappings also revealed the prices of the crossings: 10,000 to 12,000 pounds (11,700 to 14,000 euros) per adult, slightly less for a child.

The drivers could transport between one and four people, most of the time from the port of Calais, sometimes from Dunkirk, and even Bruges and Rotterdam. In total, around 4 million pounds (4.7 million euros) would have been generated by this traffic.

“Figures that make you dizzy. But behind, there is also a human reality”: people transported “in frankly unworthy conditions”, “dangerous”, “inhuman modes of transport”, said prosecutor Candice Diallo during of its requisitions.

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