• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Refugees put hopes in €500 pot-luck smuggling service
All photos: AFP

Refugees put hopes in €500 pot-luck smuggling service

AFP · 20 Jan 2016, 10:45

Published: 20 Jan 2016 10:45 GMT+01:00

Some who have used the 500-euro ($550) smuggling service at a motorway rest stop near the northern French port of Calais, have found themselves heading in completely the wrong direction, winding up in lorries to Germany or Belgium rather than their dream destination of Britain.

"The guys who run it know the trucks where the driver is not around or sleeping, and they can get you inside," said Adam Mohammed, a 30-year-old from Ghana.

"But they don't know the destination. They look for English number plates, but you are still taking a chance."

One group of three young men and two women came back to Calais saying they had woken up in a French military base.

"They said the door opened and they had laser lights on their bodies because soldiers were pointing guns at them," said Mohammed Adam, a Sudanese doctor, who is not related to the other migrant.

"They were really panicked. They were handcuffed and police came and arrested them and brought them back here," said Adam, speaking in the migrant shantytown on the outskirts of Calais known as the "Jungle" where thousands are trying to make their way across the English Channel.

The pot-luck method is far cheaper than the more organized smuggling operations that involve payments to lorry drivers.

Migrants and refugees can be expected to pay several thousand euros to guarantee passage to Britain, according to people working in the Jungle.

A charity worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said a Syrian had last week paid 11,500 euros ($12,500) - around double the going rate - to reach London.

The Syrian was only in the Jungle for one night, compared with others without cash who spend months making repeated and fruitless attempts to dodge police and sneak through security barriers.

Britain has spent millions reinforcing security around the port and the cross-Channel tunnel in Calais, but some migrants still get through.

"Sometimes 10 will get through in one night, but then 10 days will go by with no one making it," said the charity worker.



'People never give up'

The pot-luck option is reportedly run by a group of Afghans - who allow migrants a second chance if their lorry does not go to Britain.

"When they are in the truck, they try to feel if it is making a lot of turns because that means they are going through the roundabouts that lead to the ferry terminal, and they can feel if it goes up the ramp on to the ferry.

That is the only way to know," said the doctor.

Many are discovered by border police and sent straight back to the Jungle, though a few are taken to jail.

"I spent a week in prison and they sent me to court," said Solomon Vandy, a 25-year-old from Sierra Leone.

"It was horrible. People were so afraid and you can't use your phone so I did not know what was happening," he said.

Vandy was not clear on his charges or why he was released, but he was now back in the camp, along with the thousands of others hoping to reach Britain.

"People never give up. They are fighting for their lives," said Adam, the doctor.

Story continues below…

Another aid worker, who also asked to remain anonymous, said some members of the smuggling network had stopped charging money altogether.

"I spoke with one of the Kurdish guys who said he felt too guilty about taking money and was no longer taking a cut," said the aid worker.

Those who organize the trips from the camp are widely known as "mafia", although their role is simply to act as a middle-man between people in the camp and a smuggling network that is dominated by Albanians, according to several interviews with community leaders and aid workers in the Jungle.

Others said the existence of the camp and the smuggling networks were an inevitable result of British policy.

"The British government is making absolutely no attempt to accede to French demands and the refugees' demands to make it possible for people to claim asylum from here (in the Jungle). People can only claim asylum if they illegally cross," said Tom Radcliffe, a British volunteer working in the camp.

"There are people here with perfectly legitimate asylum claims but they have to make an illegal action before they can be heard," he said.

by Eric Randolph/AFP

Today's headlines
Opinion - French schools
Ten ways France must fix its 'failing' school system
What must France do to fix its school system? Photo: AFP

As pupils head back to the classroom this week, Peter Gumbel, a Paris-based British journalist and author of a best-selling critique of the French school system, spells out for The Local how France must fix a national education system in crisis.

16 things you almost certainly didn't know about France
One of the most famous roundabouts in the land of roundabouts. Photo: Amy Anderson/Flickr

Here are 16 facts from the brand new trivia book "F is for France". Did you know any of them? Be honest now.

Burqini row
Bretons bathe fully clothed as Muslim asked to leave beach
Photo: Screen shot/Ouest France

Protesters in Brittany take to the sea fully clothed after video emerges of a veil-wearing Muslim woman being asked to leave the beach in Nice, despite France's top court ruling burqini-bans are illegal.

American businessman to take over French club Marseille
Photo: AFP

The former owner of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team is set to become the new owner of troubled French football club Marseille.

Why expats are still happy about life in France
Photo: Dennis Jarvis/FLickr

Despite the fear over the heightened risk of terror attacks, expats are still very much content with the quality of life in France, a new survey has shown. Although there are drawbacks as well as positives.

Calais camp 'to pass 10,000' as UK warned over border
Photos: AFP

The camp's population has more than doubled since June, police say, as French politicians again call for the border deal with the UK to be torn up.

Parisians ignore 1923 ban to take the plunge in waterway
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: See Parisians take to the biggest swimming pool in the city.

Paris restaurant owner tells Muslim women to leave
Photo: AFP

Then says sorry after provoking outrage.

British man dies in France after trying to swim Channel
Photo Kondol/ Flickr

A British man's attempt to swim to France ended in tragedy.

French anti-burqini law would create 'irreparable tension'
Photo: AFP

A law banning the controversial burqini swim wear in France would be "unconstitutional" the French interior minister has warned and would create "irreparable tension".

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
2,752
jobs available