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LONDON: People traffickers smuggling migrants across the Channel are offering a ‘summer sale’ to people wishing to reach the UK, promising safe passage and that ‘the French won’t stop you’.
The Daily Mail reported on Tuesday that traffickers were advertising cross-Channel trips for as little as £1,500 ($1,815) on social media, with talk of limited intervention by French authorities and unusually good weather contributing to an increase in the number of travel attempts.
The UK has seen a steady increase in the number of people making the dangerous Channel crossing over the past year, with many coming from Syria and Iraq, but particularly Afghanistan, following the takeover control of the country by the Taliban in August 2021.
However, the recent swell is also believed to have been driven by large numbers of Albanians – who have made up more than a third of arrivals by boat over the past six weeks – exploiting a loophole in UK asylum law, claiming that although their country is neither at war nor persecuted, they are victims of trafficking and slavery.
An advert on TikTok read: ‘Don’t pay between £17,800 and £18,000. They come every day, it’s never been cheaper. Another showed a group of people holding a smiling Albanian flag in a canoe crossing the sea.
The price of a canoe trip across the English Channel has dropped significantly over the past year after costing up to £20,000 per person.
Competition has helped drive down the price, with up to nine gangs known to operate boat smuggling routes from France – and fears abound that UK plans to deport people to Rwanda will make the more difficult crossing in the near future.
A smuggler using a TikTok account called @franc_gomone_angli1 told an undercover reporter from The Sun posing as a migrant that the UK’s policy in Rwanda had been rolled back and the country would place asylum seekers in hotels.
“The French won’t stop you. Rather, they will safely escort you until you reach the UK sea border,” he said.
“I can give you the number of a solicitor (in the UK) that I used for my relatives. They managed to obtain papers (residence permit) for half of the Albanians in London.
He added: “Three months ago a boy was kept in detention for a month and then he was released by his lawyer. Everyone else I spoke to after arriving was sent to hotels and then disappeared. They went to their relatives.
Former UK Border Force chief executive Tony Smith told the Telegraph: ‘It may be that the business model is struggling to deal with new markets like Albania, and may have to make a little more of that sales pitch to encourage more people. to do it.”
On Monday, 150 migrants, including young children and a baby, were rescued in the English Channel. More than 500 people reached the UK by dinghy over the weekend, with the total for the year exceeding 18,000. At least 28,526 made the crossing in 2021, up from 8,404 the previous year.
Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, who is bearing the brunt of the influx, told the Mail: “It is clear that many Albanians coming to the UK in small boats are not fleeing war or persecution – they are economic migrants.
“This is flagrant criminality, and it underscores the urgency of pursuing with Rwanda and similar projects.”
Tom Hunt, Conservative MP for Ipswich, said: “It is so important that the government continues and presents the Rwandan agenda.
“We have to put an end to this farce. Legislation to make the Rwandan project a reality is expected to top the list when parliament returns after the summer recess.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement: “No one should question this government’s determination to break the gang business model.
“Social media posts promoting illegal crossings are totally unacceptable. We are considering reforming the system we use to identify victims of modern slavery, so that we can support the real victims while ensuring that the system is not misused.