• France's news in English
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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available