French police dismantle gang smuggling Afghan and Pakistani migrants across Channel

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By AFP  with Euronews
The fences surrounding the Calais truck terminal in northern France.
The fences surrounding the Calais truck terminal in northern France.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh, File

French police say they have arrested six people on suspicion of smuggling Middle Eastern migrants across the English Channel.

The criminal gang had allegedly organised the transportation of Afghan and Pakistani migrants to the United Kingdom.

According to police sources, the migrants were housed in Paris and were made to sell cigarettes illegally. They were then taken to Calais, where another group in the criminal network took them across the Channel in small boats.

Investigators say migrants paid €3,500 each to the smugglers, equivalent to around €80,000 per boat.

Authorities launched an investigation after receiving a tip-off during a rescue operation in October, when 35 migrants were found onboard a makeshift vessel.

Three suspected Afghan smugglers were arrested in districts north of the French capitals, while a fourth was detained in the central town of Ussel. Two other alleged migrant traders were arrested in Stains, near Paris.

During the police operation, 31 suspected migrants were also found in a house in Stains.

Authorities are searching for two more suspected members of the gang.

A record number of more than 40,000 migrants have arrived in the UK in small boats across the Channel this year.