Four men are being held by French authorities on suspicion of involvement in the fatal attempted smuggler boat crossing to England on Saturday that killed six Afghan migrants.
Two Iraqi and two Sudanese-origin males aged 17, 29, and two aged 43 have been arrested in France on suspicion of aggravated manslaughter and aiding irregular entry of a foreigner as part of an organised gang, reports French-language newspaper Le Monde. According to their information, the Iraqis are people traffickers who helped organised the ill-fated attempt to smuggle migrants into the United Kingdom, and the Sudanese were migrants trying to make the journey who got a reduced rate on their own crossing fees in return for helping the smugglers run the boat.
The unnamed four are being held in pre-trial detention and face up to ten years in prison.
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In the event, after a chaotic morning in northern France on Saturday which according to the eyewitness account of survivors started with a gun battle at the migrant camp where they had stayed overnight, the overloaded rubber boat was launched towards Britain’s southern shore in bad weather. It foundered while only a short distance from the French coast, but it was a British vessel which came to the aid of the small vessel carrying 60 souls in the first instance, reports claimed.
Six people, all Afghan migrants, are reported to have died of drowning and one more is thought to be missing. The rubber boat is reported to have “ripped” open after the boat’s engine failed and only a handful on board had life jackets.
The four now held were reported to have been arrested on the day of the attempted voyage, but it is only now that details about them and the charges laid against them have been revealed.
London’s The Times reports it is common practice for smuggler gangs to hire some of their own customers — migrants trying to force the borders of European nations against the laws and customs of those countries — to pilot the boats, despite them very rarely, if ever, being competent mariners with knowledge of marine engineering or navigation. This practice presumably reduces the risk of arrest for people smugglers themselves, as they need not necessarily be present on the boat, and doubtless, they are well aware of how very dangerous crossing crowded waterways in bad weather aboard overloaded rubber boats is.
Migrant crossings continue despite the now-considerable payments made by the British government to the French to do a better job patrolling their coasts and intercepting boats before they leave. There is also no end in sight: despite many fine promises made, the UK’s ‘Conservative’ government has made no real progress on getting in control of the migrant boats, and leaked internal memos speak of securing migrant accommodation for arrivals for at least the next five years.
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