France busts sailboat gang of migrant smugglers

France busts sailboat gang of migrant smugglers
The arrests occurred in Saint-Quay-Portrieux in Brittany. Photo: Kamel15/WikiCommons
French police said on Tuesday they have broken up a smuggling network that used yachts to transport migrants to Britain after finding seven Ukrainians stowed away on a boat on the French coast.
Two skippers and three suspected smugglers were detained on Friday after police discovered the migrants on their sailboat in Brittany on France's northwest coast.
“This migration network used a relatively rare and costly method, because the journey cost around 6,000 to 7,000 euros ($6,800 to $7,900),” said Julien Gentile, head of France's anti-smuggling office.
Police said the smugglers had rented at least 20 boats from different ports along the French coast over the past two years.
Initial investigations began in mid-2014 after British customs officials found six Ukrainians trying to come ashore from a yacht off the eastern coast of England.
A yacht thought to belong to the smuggling network was identified earlier this year and monitored as it passed through Italian, Spanish and British waters, before it ended up in Saint-Quay-Portrieux in Brittany where Friday's arrests occurred.
The Ukrainian migrants were set free with orders to leave France. They had travelled there using tourist visas.