French Police Bust Major Migrant Smuggler Network in Southern City

French police officers stand at a border post on the French-Spanish border on the A63 moto
IROZ GAIZKA/AFP via Getty Images

French border police have dismantled a major migrant smuggling network operating in the area of the southern city of Perpignan which is accused of smuggling over 200 migrants into France.

The investigation into the activity of the network began in June of 2020 after police were informed of the existence of a network smuggling North African migrants illegally across the border with Spain in Le Perthus, a commune just south of Perpignan.

During the initial months of the investigation, police were able to identify members of the network, which charged between 100 and 300 euros per migrant for services which saw French drivers smuggle migrants across the border in their vehicles, L’Independant reports.

At least 15 of the drivers were arrested between 2020 and 2022, with many claiming that they had only picked up the migrants because they assumed they were simply hitchhikers and did not receive cash for their services.

However, further investigations linked six main suspects to the people smuggling network, accused of making tens of thousands of euros from smuggling migrants across the border. Police also seized 13,000 euros in cash along with mobile phones and five vehicles.

Earlier this year, a 49-year-old French national was sentenced to four years in prison for driving migrants across the border from Spain to France and is believed to have ferried as many as 162 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in 24 trips from the Spanish town of Irun to France.

The 49-year-old was arrested in Bayonne in January after dropping off 15 migrants at a local shelter and attempted to ram police with his vehicle when they tried to arrest him. The man also tried to claim that he had not received any cash for his services, a claim questioned by the prosecution in the case.

People smuggling remains a lucrative industry in other areas of France, such as in Northern France where smugglers look to help migrants cross the English Channel to the United Kingdom.

One such smuggler, an Albanian national nicknamed “the Golden Lion” is estimated to have made as much as a million pounds a week from people smuggling.

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


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