French police have disrupted an Iraqi gang suspected of trafficking around 40 migrants a day to Calais and into Britain, with three arrests made and vehicles seized.
The gang is thought to have smuggled the illegal migrants in refrigerated lorries, which are sealed and are less likely to be opened for checks.
Three Iraqi men, aged 30, 36, and 38, were arrested Angoulême, southwest France, according to Charente Libre. A fourth man was placed under judicial control and six vehicles were seized, including a Volkswagen Passat registered in the UK.
In August, French police discovered 10 migrants, including five children, in a refrigerated lorry on the A63 motorway 580 miles from Calais.
The illegal migrants had been transferred to the region when the infamous Jungle migrant camp in Calais was evacuated last autumn.
Two more refrigerated lorries carrying migrants to the UK illegally were discovered in the region shortly afterwards.
UK to Pay France Millions More to Stop New Wave of Calais Migrants
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French police put the gang under surveillance, and say they used fast cars to transfer around 40 migrants to lorry parks between midnight and 5 am every day.
Lieutenant-colonel Laurent Lesaffre, head of the gendarmerie’s detective unit in Pau, southern France, said officers had to act fast “because a health catastrophe was possible”.
He added: “All these migrants were living in deplorable conditions without water or heating and there were babies and pregnant women.”
In 2016, Illegal migrants made more than 56,000 attempts to breach Britain’s borders from French ports and terminals. Border Force and other British authorities intercepted an average of 153 attempted crossings a day throughout the year.
In November of this year, it was reported that the UK was to give around £80 million of taxpayers’ money to France to stem the surge in attempted illegal crossings.
During the French election campaign in Spring 2017, then-candidate Emmanuel Macron threatened to effectively allow Calais migrants to cross to the UK by tearing up the Le Touquet treaty which allows British police to perform border checks and stop migrants in France.