Migrants trafficked by ‘English mafia’ – French mayor

© Juan Medina
Violent English gangs are smuggling migrants into Britain from northern France in trucks, a French mayor has suggested.

The ‘English mafia’ use guns and threats to force migrants into vehicles traveling to the UK, Mayor of Teteghem Franck Dhersin told the BBC.

He said traffickers are collecting migrants from camps and forcing them to stowaway on trucks. Dhersin said he had once tried to enter a camp, but was confronted by a man with a gun who threatened to rape a female reporter who was traveling with him.

Police officers at the camp told him not to return.

“[The] cars are English and the owners are English. The smugglers just want to make money from migrants. The smugglers are very violent,” Dhersin said.

The mayor said while the gangs had been in operation for many years in the area, they had now become more organized to take advantage of the growing number of migrants arriving in the region.

Cars with British license plates have been seen at the camp in Teteghem, the BBC reported.

One Syrian migrant said he had so far paid traffickers £15,000 (US$23,500) in his attempt to reach Britain, and had been threatened with violence by the smugglers if he didn’t follow orders.

I’m so, so scared,” he said. “They have guns. They put it to someone’s head and said ‘You move again and I will kill you.’

A Home Office spokesperson said British and French authorities were working to tackle the problem.

We are working closely with the French authorities to deal with the situation in northern France.

“We are increasing joint intelligence work to target the organized crime gangs behind people smuggling and ... work closely with [our] French counterparts.

“The UK is playing a leading role in pushing for action through the EU and the UN to tackle the causes of illegal immigration and the organized trafficking gangs behind it that exploit migrants at each stage of their journey.”

Pascal Aerts, of the French police, said he could not confirm the identities of the traffickers.

“I don’t have proof that they’re English but we know perfectly there [are] links between the traffickers and the receivers in Great Britain, and with the traffickers who work in France.”