A UK court has found six men guilty of trying to smuggle migrants across the English Channel in overcrowded boats. Although unregulated travel by migrants and refugees is usually associated with people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach European waters, there have been growing reports from the British authorities of a similar – although so far much smaller – trade with migrants trying to reach the UK from mainland Europe.
The gang was caught after they attempted to hire jetskis to bring Albanian migrants across the Channel. One of the inflatable boats they had previously used, designed for six people but with 20 on board, had to be rescued after nearly sinking. Another of their boats had to be rescued after it ran out of fuel while travelling the wrong way up a shipping lane.
A National Crime Agency (NCA) spokesperson commented: “We have people controlling vessels with no maritime experience … trying to cross this busy shipping channel at night in a small vessel not utilising lights or radar.”
The gang had charged the migrants up to GBP6,000 each to travel from France to the Kent coast.
The six convicted men, including two Albanian “travel agents” who took part in the operation, now await their sentence, which is likely to be a term in prison.