Channel crossings: French court tries 9 Afghans over 'people smuggling'

Channel crossings: French court tries 9 Afghans over 'people smuggling'
2 min read
A French court has put nine Afghans on trial over allegations of their involvement in people smuggling across the Channel to Britain.
A surge in Afghans have taken small boat crossing from France to Britain since the fall of Kabul in August 2021 [source: Getty]

Nine Afghans were on trial in France over allegations of attempting to smuggle migrants across the Channel to Britain in 2021.

The case is the latest as Britain and France seek to clamp down on boat crossings into the United Kingdom on a perilous route that has become increasingly used since 2018.

Migrants use this route because, often, no other safe humanitarian corridor is available to them. 

The men, whose trial opened in Paris on Tuesday, are accused of having helped 53 mainly Vietnamese and Afghan migrants set off on the dangerous sea crossing on dinghies on four occasions between January and March 2021.

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Four were being tried for a leading role in the smuggling operations, while another five were accused of having played a secondary role.

They have been charged with organised support for illegal immigration.

Several of the defendants were suspected of having bought dinghies as well as life jackets and then depositing them in sand dunes near the seaside town of Wimereux, according to the charge sheet.

One of the defendants, who did not appear in court, told investigators about a dinghy launch he witnessed.

A passenger designated as the boat's captain did not have to pay for his passage, while a second, tasked with navigating the vessel using GPS, only paid half price, according to his statement read out during the hearing.

All the rest paid between 1,500 and 4,000 euros ($1,600 to 4,300) each, the charge sheet showed.

In all four cases, the passengers were rescued either in French or British waters.

According to the British government, more than 45,000 migrants arrived on the shores of southeast England on small boats in 2022.

The previous year, more than 28,000 people were detected arriving.

In November 2021, at least 27 people drowned when their dinghy deflated during the journey. They were mostly Kurds from Iraq and included a child aged seven.

The investigation into that case is still ongoing.

In December 2019, a French court jailed two smugglers - an Afghan and a Dutchman of Guinean origin - for six and three years for manslaughter and aiding illegal migration after a 31-year-old Iranian woman drowned during a crossing.