LONDON: People smugglers have slashed prices of Channel crossings to as little as £435 ($528) by cramming migrants on boats, the Mirror reported on Sunday
Marketed as discounted Christmas deals, Kurdish smugglers are allegedly charging the cheapest fares ever for illegally entering the UK by boat in Callais.
“The smugglers are taking what they can to fill boats and the lower the price, the more they try to get on board. We know they’re overcrowded.” Lucy Halliday, operations coordinator at the charity Care4Calais, told the Mirror.
This follows the death of four people when their small dinghy sank in the icy waters on Wednesday.
One Afghan man told the Sunday People he attempted to board the boat, but traffickers told him it was full.
“We had walked 10 hours to the beach, but there were already too many people on board. There were many Afghans and lots of women and children. It was a mixed group,” he said.
After meeting an Afghan middleman in a refugee camp, the 27-year-old doctor said he agreed to pay £2,000 to get him to the UK. He was put in contact with Kurdish smugglers via WhatsApp.
Having already paid other smugglers £7,000 to get him from Afghanistan to Calais, he said he is waiting to board the next available boat to the UK, where he aspires to work for the NHS.
An investigation has been launched into Wednesday’s tragedy, a UK government spokesperson said in a statement.
Jalal Siddiq, who had fled war in Sudan in 2016, told the Mirror that he has spent the last few months in a refugee camp in Calais that used to house a branch of the Lidl supermarket.
“I applied to stay as an asylum seeker in France, but they didn’t accept me. Now I want to go to England to study. The French say I was fingerprinted in Italy, so I have to go back there and seek asylum,” Siddiq said.
“I had to leave my wife in Sudan as the road here is difficult, but I hope to be reunited with her in England,” the 24-year-old added.
He told the Mirror that after traveling to Libya, he paid around £340 to board a crowded boat to an island in southern Italy. But he, like many African refugees stuck in camps for months, cannot afford a boat to the UK and tries to jump on lorries at 4 a.m. every day.
“The boats are too expensive, so it’s my only option,” Siddiq told the Mirror.
Critics have panned the UK’s £63 million deal with France to boost coastal patrols announced in November, with the Conservative MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke saying it “falls short of what is needed.”
“The British Government has blood on its hands,” Halliday said.
Police in France have also come under fire for failing to stop the crossings.
Since 2018, total spending to combat the crisis has reached £175 million, the Mirror reported. Meanwhile, over 44,711 people have crossed the Channel this year in small boats.