Channel migrant-smuggling ring cracked in 4-nation operation

BRUSSELS (AP) — A multinational police operation this week led to the arrest of a dozen suspected smugglers who take migrants across the English Channel to the U.K. in small boats under dangerous conditions, officials said Wednesday.

The major, four-nation operation also resulted in the seizure of a dozen vehicles and 10 boats used to ferry the migrants across, the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust, said.

The illegal migration by sea toward Britain is a massive business, with smugglers charging some 3,000 euros ($3,500) a person for the trip in often overloaded boats in tough weather conditions.

The Press Association news agency reported the number of migrants who arrived in Britain in September alone to at least 1,880 – roughly the same number believed to have crossed the Channel in the whole of 2019.

Migrants have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain, stowed away in trucks or on ferries. Many now appear to have turned to small boats supplied by smugglers during the coronavirus pandemic because virus restrictions have reduced traffic between France and Britain.

In this week’s operation, 7 suspects were arrested in France, 3 in Britain and 2 in the Netherlands.

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