Report: Illegal Boat Migrants Sign Slave Labour ‘Pact’ with Traffickers to Reach UK

HAMBLEDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03: Migrant workers pick Chardonnay grapes during the harvest at Hambledon Vineyard on October 3, 2018 in Hambledon, United Kingdom. Around 80 predominantly Eastern European workers have been brought in at Hambledon to pick a bumper crop of 250 tonnes of grapes this season, following a …
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Illegal boat migrants are reportedly making ‘pacts’ with human trafficking networks to serve as slave labourers in order to pay off the fees charged for crossing the English Channel from France.

Officials in France say that the illegal migrants ultimately become the “property” of human trafficking networks, often working in restaurants, laundrettes, and cannabis farms in the UK to pay off their debt to the people smugglers.

“To lower the cost of their crossing, migrants can be employed in England by the criminal organisation with which they will be linked for years,” French prosecutor Pascal Marconville told The Sun.

“British investigators have discovered many migrants working in washing stations. Over the years, they repay their loans,” Marconville added.

A local source in Calais, France, told the British paper that migrants sign a “pact” with traffickers before making the perilous journey across the Channel, saying: “It’s in pretty poor conditions. They’re essentially the property of the smuggling gangs and the gangsters in the UK.”

“Someone paying money back through unregulated work is worth much more than the discount,” he added.

Britain’s equivalent to the FBI, the National Crime Agency (NCA), said: “Without permission to work legally, migrants can be exploited and forced into modern slavery or turn to crime to support themselves.”

The people-smuggling gangs are reportedly charging migrants between £1,000 to £10,000 to make the journey to the UK, offering bronze, silver, and gold packages, with some migrants being given only a kayak or surfboard to cross the Channel.

The scourge of modern-day slavery in the UK was highlighted in July, when a report revealed that an estimated 100,000 people are working as slave labourers across Britain, with some 10,000 slaves alone in the fast-fashion textile industry in Leicester.

The report from the Centre for Social Justice said that trafficking networks are believed to be working with local gangsters in order to exploit illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Eastern Europe, who are trapped in “debt bondage” accumulated during their journey to enter the UK illegally.

“Human traffickers and Organised Crime Groups are running riot in too many communities. Very few face prosecution relative to the number of victims found and even fewer are convicted. As the number of victims discovered has skyrocketed in the last five years, convictions have barely increased,” the report said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said that police and other government agencies overlooked the slave labour happening under their noses due to so-called “cultural sensitivities” — akin to how police ignored mostly Pakistani Muslim grooming gangs in cities such as Rochdale and Rotherham for fear of being accused of racism.

In July, Raj Mann, the police contact for Leicester’s Sikh community, said: “The local authorities have known these sweatshops exist for decades but they’ve been loath to do anything about it for fear of being accused of picking on immigrant or refugee communities, as a lot of the exploited workers are of Indian background.”

So far this year, over 6,000 illegal migrants have been recorded reaching the UK crossing the English Channel in small rubber boats. So far in September alone, at least 1,487 made the journey, a monthly record.

The true number of illegal migrants is likely to be much higher, however, as the figures only reflect those who were detected by UK Border Force.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka

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