Illegals smuggled from France to UK on the cheap
LONDON, July 31, 2006 (AFP) – Some illegal immigrants are paying gangs of traffickers less than 150 pounds (EUR 220) per person to be smuggled into Britain, a government agency said Monday.
The sum for passage across the English Channel from France was disclosed in the first public announcement from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which was formed in April as a British equivalent to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The costs to migrants vary substantially,” SOCA's report said.
“Some pay less than 150 pounds to enter the UK from France clandestinely.”
The figure is far lower than any previous assessment and was greeted with skepticism by at least one independent expert.
Keith Best, director of the independent Immigration Advisory Service, said: “I'm very surprised by this figure, and highly skeptical.
“Based on what has been said before, I would have thought the figure would be in the high hundreds (of pounds), if not the thousands.”
French police catch more illegals sneaking into UK
Andrew Green, chairman of anti-mass migration think-tank Migrationwatch, pointed out that the fee could be compared to the cost of entering Britain from France via ferry or the Eurostar train.
“This is extraordinarily cheap not much more than the usual fare,” he said.
“It suggests that it is incredibly easy to get people into Britain clandestinely.”
He added that previous measures to clamp down on illegal immigrants coming from France have seemingly had “very little practical effect on the flow of illegal immigrants into Britain”.
SOCA said that immigrants from further afield were paying much larger sums of money in their bids to break into the country.
“Chinese migrants may be charged up to 20,000 pounds (EUR 29,200) to be facilitated from China to the UK.
Some Sri Lankan migrants pay 5,000 to 10,000 pounds, it added.
Launching SOCA, Prime Minister Tony Blair said it would “make life hell” for crime barons behind people-trafficking, drugs gangs and major fraud.
Britain's first non-police law enforcement agency maintains a deliberately low profile and reveals little about its activities.
The government estimates that there are between 310,000 and 570,000 illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom and it could take 10 years to deport them.