A court in northern France has sentenced 14 Sri Lankan nationals to prison for operating a migrant smuggling ring across Europe, as authorities across the continent try to crack down on the lucrative criminal networks.
The main suspect, accused of overseeing the operation from a grocery store in the village of Serifontaine, was handed a four-year prison term, with one year suspended.
Investigators determined that he set the prices and routes for moving migrants from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh across the continent from Ukraine, with the help of bribes to officials in Eastern Europe.
Another suspect, who is based in Britain but fighting extradition requests, was given a five-year sentence by the court in Beauvais, while the others were given lesser prison terms.
Smuggling gangs have flourished as increasing numbers of migrants have headed for Europe in recent years, with many hoping to cross the English Channel to Britain.
More than 45,000 migrants crossed the Channel from mainland Europe in 2022, surpassing the previous year’s record by more than 17,000, according to British government figures.