A fisherman accused of helping migrants cross the English Channel from France is the latest in a growing number of French people turning to human trafficking. The government said this year alone nearly 200 networks operated by 3,000 people have been dismantled in France.
The fisherman, thought to be around 20 years old, was arrested with five others near the port town of Dunkirk earlier this week, reports The Local.
Judicial sources in Lille confirmed today that the other five were foreign citizens, two from Vietnam and three from Albania. A “large sum of money” was recovered during the arrests. All six suspected people smugglers remain in detention and may be charged later this week.
Speaking on Europe 1 radio, French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed the arrest. He refused to discuss details, saying it was too early to do so, but spoke in general terms and confirmed he wanted those engaged in human trafficking to be “severely punished”.
“We have dismantled a very large number of networks since the start of the year,” he said. “In France, it’s nearly 200 networks representing 3,000 individuals, and in the Calais region it’s around 30 networks, representing 700 individuals.”
In an operation that judicial sources said lasted “several months” the arrested fisherman charged migrants between €10,000 and €12,000 for a place on his inflatable boat. The inflatable would depart at night from a beach near Dunkirk, setting off on a dangerous 55 mile journey.
French authorities have previously highlighted cases of unemployed French citizens and students being tempted to help migrants across the Channel for as much as €2,000 per person.
Those who head the human trafficking networks earn millions but specifically target people living in poorer areas with promises of money and assurances they are doing a good deed.
Emmanuelle Osmont, a French lawyer from Boulogne, told The Local:
“In the past the traffickers, who are often from Asia or Albania, recruited people around them to do these journeys, but the risks became too great. Then they turned to the truck drivers, but now its local French people who are suffering from financial difficulties.
“We have even had two or three students up before the courts and they are targeting local business people who may be struggling to pay their bills or their taxes, because of the ongoing economic crisis.
“The mafia is benefiting from that.”