Calais: Five hotel managers arrested for ‘smuggling Albanians to Britain’

Five hotel managers suspected of belonging to a network smuggling Albanian migrants into Britain were arrested Tuesday in a police operation in the French port city of Calais, a judicial source said.

Calais: Five hotel managers arrested for 'smuggling Albanians to Britain'
Photo: AFP
“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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French police cause misery for migrants in Calais

French police are inflicting misery on migrants in the northern port of Calais, routinely tearing down their tents and forcing them to wander the streets as part of a deterrence policy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published on Thursday.

French police cause misery for migrants in Calais
A migrant camp is evacuated by police forces in Calais in February 2019. Photo: Philippe HUGUEN / AFP.

The 75-page report documents methods used by authorities to prevent the emergence of another major migrant settlement in Calais, five years after the demolition of the sprawling “Jungle” camp which housed up to 10,000 people at its peak.

Calais has for years been a rallying point for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa trying to sneak across the English Channel to Britain.

Faced with growing public anti-migrant sentiment, President Emmanuel Macron’s government has waged a campaign to prevent new camps emerging.

Police tactics include systematically tearing down migrants’ tents in the woods, on wasteland or under bridges, regularly confiscating their belongings and harassing NGOs trying to provide them with aid, according to New York-based HRW.

“The authorities carry out these abusive practices with the primary purposes of forcing people to move elsewhere, without resolving their
migration status or lack of housing, or of deterring new arrivals,” it said in the report entitled “Enforced Misery: The Degrading Treatment of Migrant Children and Adults in Northern France”.

‘Harass and abuse’

NGOs estimate the number of migrants currently living around Calais at between 1,500 and 2,000, including numerous families. Local authorities estimate that only 500 remain in the area.

Last week, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin ordered the eviction of a camp housing 400 migrants near a hospital in Calais, which was presented as a danger to the hospital’s patients and staff.

On that occasion the migrants were taken to temporary shelters but often they are left to wander the streets.

“When the police arrive, we have five minutes to get out of the tent before they destroy everything,” a Kurdish woman from Iraq told HRW.

The interior ministry did not respond to AFP’s request for comment on the report.

The government argues that the camps are havens for people smugglers, who command extortionate fees to help migrants cross to Britain, either in a small boat crossing the Channel in the dead of night or stowed away on a truck crossing by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel.

NGOs argue that the tactics do nothing more than make migrants already difficult lives even more miserable.

The report quoted the Calais-based Human Rights Observers group as saying that in some cases cleaning crews cut migrants’ tents while people are still inside, in order to force them out.

“If the aim is to discourage migrants from gathering in northern France, these policies are a manifest failure and result in serious harm,” Benedicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch, said.

French authorities “need a new approach to help people, not repeatedly harass and abuse them,” she added.

A total of 15,400 people attempted to cross the Channel in the first eight months of this year, a increase of 50 percent over the figure for the whole of 2020, according to French coast guard statistics.

“Exiles aren’t travelling to northern France because they’ve heard they can camp in the woods or stay under a bridge…They come because that’s where the border is,” Charlotte Kwantes, national coordinator of the Utopia 56 charity was quoted in the report as saying.