French Police Bust Network of Identity Fraud Fake Underage Migrants

Migrants sit on a crash barrier by the ringroad leading to the harbour on March 30, 2018 in Calais. / AFP PHOTO / Denis Charlet (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)

Police in Montpellier has taken down a network of migrants from the Ivory Coast who used forged documents to claim that they were underage when they were actually adults.

The network, which was based in Montpellier but involved migrants across the country, saw the arrest of its head this week who is accused of forging documents to defraud the French government, Metropolitain reports.

The network head is also said to have worked with people smugglers to help migrants get to Europe through Libya.

The arrest came after French authorities in the department of the Hérault noticed five migrants from the Ivory Coast having nearly identical documents which showed them all coming from the same province in the African nation.

This led to authorities in the Ivory Coast arresting a civil servant who is said to have worked with the head of the network, helping smuggle migrants into Europe.

Prosecutor of the Republic of Montpellier, Christophe Barret, said: “Recently, an isolated minor supported by the county council of Hérault had said he was 17 years old. The department had doubts. Extensive verifications have formally confirmed that he was 32 years old, in fact.”

Police in Hérault also noted that many of the migrants had claimed to be orphans but that was soon proven false after they looked at their mobile phones. “In fact, when we seized their mobile phones, we realised that they regularly called their parents in Ivory Coast,” police divisional commissioner Laurent Siam said.

The local government of Hérault has also launched 17 complaints against various migrants, claiming that in total the adult migrants had managed to defraud taxpayers of 900,000 euros of benefits they were not entitled to.

Unaccompanied minor migrants who later turn out to be adults are becoming increasingly common in the wake of the 2015 migrant crisis.

In Germany and Sweden, many underage migrants have turned out to be adults after medical tests and some have even been involved in murder cases like that of German student Maria Ladenburger and Swedish asylum home helper Alexandra Mezher.

 Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at) 


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