“It is an investigation that has been underway for several weeks, concerning a network of Albanian smugglers which has been using four hotels in Calais,” Boulogne-sur-Mer prosecutor Pascal Marconville told AFP, confirming a report in the daily “La Voix du Nord”.
Those arrested were managers or co-managers of the hotels concerned, according to a judicial source.
They were being held in custody, which had been extended in the evening, the prosecutor's office said.
“These hotels were not owned by Albanians but by people who obviously, and according to the initial investigations, hosted people of Albanian nationality for this network of smugglers, in order to smuggle them into Britain,” Marconville added.
The network offered “guaranteed passage” only to Albanians, charging a fee of between €5,000 and €10,000 ($5,300 to $10,600) depending on how they cross the Channel, allowing them to transit through the hotels and not through camps, such as the razed former “Jungle” on the outskirts of Calais that once housed up to 10,000 migrants.
Several migrants had also been apprehended, up to seven per room, Marconville added.
“We had strong suspicions about the practices of these hotels. While we thought we were dealing with an Albanian network, it seems that there are also Eritreans and Syrians involved,” he said, adding that “the managers were fully aware of the facts and some even sold the clothes of the migrants after their departure”.
The defendants could appear in court on Friday.
Meanwhile, the hotels have been closed “and protected to prevent them from becoming squats,” said the prosecutor.
Calais has for years been a staging post for attempts by migrants to sneak into Britain by stowing away on trucks or trains crossing the Channel.