Stymied at English Channel
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As France increases security in Calais, smuggling rings proliferate for migrants trying to reach U.K.
Mayor Franck Dhersin no longer controls the camp he set up for dozens of migrants passing through his town on the shores of the English Channel.
The site, which offers running water, heat and electricity, has recently fallen into the hands of smugglers who use luxury vehicles to sneak migrants past border patrols in the nearby port city of Calais.
“Get out of here, this is my jungle,” the mayor says a smuggler told him when he last visited this month.
As French authorities crack down in Calais—long a way station for people trying to sneak through the Channel Tunnel or onto ferries to the U.K.—thousands of more well-heeled migrants are turning to smuggling rings that promise a safer passage.
The risk of getting caught is still significant, even if border agents can’t search every truck, but the business appears to be booming.
In interviews, people from Iraq, Syria and Iran said they pay hefty fees to travel in the backs of trucks across Turkey and Europe to reach Téteghem and neighboring towns. Then they pay another £2,000 ($3,100) to be ferried in luxury cars with U.K. license plates—better to avoid detection—to truck stops, where complicit truck drivers stow them inside semitrailers for the last leg of the trip.
These migrants are trying to avoid the fate of thousands of others, mainly from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, languishing in a makeshift camp in Calais known as the jungle, which the United Nations has described as “absolutely appalling.”
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