Europe

Migrants offered £435 deal to cross Channel in packed boats

Rishi Sunak comments on the migrant boat incident

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Desperate migrants are now being offered a cut-price £435 ‘Christmas deal’ by people smugglers to cross the English Channel in dangerously overcrowded boats, it has been claimed. The callous offers from Kurdish gangsters in Calais come after four people died last week when their tiny boat sank in the freezing waters as the migrant crisis escalates. Worse still, the prices now on offer, just one week before December 25, are believed to be the cheapest fees ever charged for entering the UK illegally by boat.

Lucy Halliday of the Care4Calais charity told The Mirror: “Some are paying as little as €500 (£435). The smugglers are taking what they can to fill boats and the lower the price, the more they try to get on board. We know they’re overcrowded.”

She launched a furious attack against the Conservative Party Government, claiming she has witnessed multiple crossing bids every day in the French port since she arrived there in February.

Ms Halliday raged: “The British Government has blood on its hands. Migrants died because of the Government’s hostile position.

“Instead of spending £5million on hotels, the Home Office should spend it on clearing the asylum backlog. These are traumatised people being denied their human rights.”

The number of migrants making the dangerous trip in small boats across the English Channel has surged over the year, with the numbers swelling to nearly 45,000 people.

French police have been torn apart for not doing enough to stop the crossings, despite the UK last month agreeing a £63million deal to boost coastal patrols.

Since the crisis began in 2018, total spending is now fast-approaching £200million, with both countries under huge pressure to take firm control of the situation.

One man from Afghanistan said he tried to get on the boat that capsized early on Wednesday but was denied when traffickers told him it was full.

The 27-year-old told the Sunday People newspaper: “We had walked ten hours to the beach but there were already too many people on board. There were many Afghans and lots of women and children. It was a mixed group.”

He said he agreed to pay Kurds £2,000 to get him to the UK after meeting an Afghan middleman in the camp, before he was put in contact with them via WhatsApp.

This came after the man – a doctor in his homeland – had already paid a separate gang £7,000 to get him from Afghanistan to Calais, and is now anxiously waiting to be informed where he can board a boat to reach the UK.

He said: “I’ve got on three boats but each time the police caught us and held it. I’ve had bad luck. I know it is dangerous but I will keep trying.

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“If I could travel legally with a visa I would but they are not giving them to people from my country.”

Jalal Siddiq from Darfur, Sudan said he had fled war in his country back in 2016 and has spent recent week in a satellite camp known as Old Lidl, as it once housed a branch of the German ­supermarket chain.

The 24-year-old man made the trip to Libya before then paying 340 to board a packed boat to the island of Lampedusa, located off the coast of Italy.

He told the newspaper: “I applied to stay as an asylum seeker in France but they didn’t accept me. Now I want to go to England to study.

“The French say I was fingerprinted in Italy so I have to go back there and seek asylum. I had to leave my wife in Sudan as the road here is difficult but I hope to be reunited with her in England.”

Mr Siddiq said he cannot afford his own boat, so he tries to jump on to lorries from 4am every morning. The man added: “The boats are too expensive, so it’s my only option.”

On Thursday, it was revealed migrants were rescued from a second sinking boat on the same night four people died in the English Channel.

Border force officials rescued 50 people, five of whom had ended up in the freezing water, after their boat started to sink, Government officials said.

Express.co.uk has contacted the Home Office for a comment.

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