Europe

People smuggler claims French police wishing migrants ‘good luck’

RNLI gives statement following Channel migrant boat tragedy

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Less than a week after four migrants died in the freezing cold waters of the English Channel, having paid £5,000 each for a spot on a small dinghy, a convicted people smuggler has alleged that French police on the Calais coast often watch as the travellers make their way to the shore and set off, shouting: “Take them to England”. Tofan, a Kurdish criminal who worked for smuggling gangs prior to his arrest in 2010, said there were roughly 600 traffickers operating along the French and Belgian coastline but that none had been arrested, reportedly because of police inaction. His claims, which cannot be verified, suggest that despite a new deal with the UK to increase police presence on the French coastline, thousands of migrants are still being permitted to board dinghies from the beaches. 

Tofan told The Sun on Sunday: “Gangs say the French police are the best in the world. There’s nearly 600 smugglers in the camps around here and not one has been arrested.”

He reported how up to 200 migrants travel to the beach dunes of Plage de Leffrinckoucke from their camps in Dunkirk every night, often watched by French police as they make their way into the forest to wait for a weather window. 

Many of them are paying between £5,000 and £10,000 to travel on one of eight dinghies that attempt to cross each day. 

Tofan said: “The police just watch them go into the forest. The only time they do anything is when they hear French and they think they are being recorded by a journalist. Otherwise, they tell gangs ‘bonne chance’ — meaning good luck in English.”

Meanwhile, he added, around 100 armed gangsters sit in the bushes, drinking cans of strong lager.

Tofan said: “For show, [the police] sometimes puncture the boats. It’s to show the world they are doing their job. 

“But that’s only if there are women and children on board as some do have a heart. If it’s all men, they say, ‘Take them to England’.”

In 2010, Tofan was convicted in a French court for people smuggling and he was jailed for six years. He served a further sentence for assault after an armed altercation with another smuggler. 

Addressing his reasons for speaking out, he said: “I know I’ve profited from people smuggling. I know I’ve done many things wrong but the boats were not as flimsy and there weren’t as many people — no women and children.

“Now there are rogue gangs, many many little ones who don’t care about people’s safety. All they care about is the cash. It’s worse than ever. It needs to stop and I want the police to start taking action.

“My mother rang me crying when those people died in the Channel this week, asking me to help stop it. They are sending people to their deaths. The boat smuggling is too dangerous and I’m sick of the lifestyle.

“There is no respect for human life and it’s all about the money. It never used to be like this. It’s just about getting more and more over to England. They are being sent to their death.” 

Tofan also suggested that certain male smugglers were exploiting female migrants by forcing desperate women and girls to sleep with them in exchange for a spot on one of the small dinghies.

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On November 14, as the number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel showed no signs of abating despite the looming winter, the UK Government signed a deal with France to increase security presence on their coast. 

In a deal worth about £63 million in 2022-2023, more than 350 gendarmes and police guarding the beaches would be added, as well as drones and night vision equipment to help officers detect crossings. 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the deal would mean “a 40-percent increase in the number of patrols happening, and for the first time, British officials embedded in French operations to strengthen coordination and the effectiveness of our operations”.

He said the agreement would be “a foundation for even greater cooperation in the months ahead”.

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