Published: 19:32, 24 November 2021
| Updated: 20:15, 24 November 2021
On the day that 30 people drowned in the English Channel as they attempted to cross from Calais to England, the National Crime Agency announced that its officers in co-operation with the French Border Police had smashed an organised crime group involved in smuggling asylum seekers from France to the UK in small boats.
A total of 18 arrests were made in the Calais, Le Havre and Paris and more than 100,000 euros were seized.
The gang were involved in the supply of boats which would each be able to carry between 40 and 60 people.
The network would then arrange departures from the shore of northern France, recruiting asylum seekers in the various camps there who would each be charged around 6,000 euros for the journey to the UK.
Those held in the operation included nationals of Iraq, Pakistan, Romania and Vietnam, who will all now appear before French courts.
The NCA deputy director Andrea Wilson said: "We look to target and disrupt organised crime groups involved in people smuggling at every step of the route.
"Much of this criminality lies outside the UK, so we have built up our intelligence sharing effort with law enforcement partners in France and beyond."
She said: "This includes having NCA officers based in those countries, sharing intelligence and working side by side on joint investigations.
"This approach is bringing operational results in the form of arrests and prosecutions, as we have seen with this particular case.
"Much of this work is necessarily covert, but we know it is having an impact.
"We are continuing to look at ways to disrupt the supply of vessels to people smuggling gangs and target those who knowingly do so."
Meanwhile, although some survivors were rescued from today's tragedy, five people are still missing and unaccounted for.
The Channel is the busiest shipping lane in the world, but despite the dangers, an estimated 25,700 have already crossed the Channel to Britain this year, more than triple 2020's total.