From The Telegraph U.K.
‘Baghdad ring’ of people-smugglers ‘helped hundreds of migrants sneak into Britain’
Hundreds of illegal migrants were regularly smuggled to Britain from France as part of a discounted “bulk service” provided by the “Baghdad ring” of people smugglers, a Paris court heard on Wednesday.
Published: 7:00AM GMT 04 Mar 2010
The £7000-a-head scam saw 1,000 foreigners transported to Channel ports like Calais and Cherbourg, where they were encouraged to jump aboard lorries heading for England and other parts of northern Europe between early 2007 and mid-2008.
Once they arrived in the UK, migrants, primarily Iraqis, but also Iranians, Afghani s, Pakistanis and Chinese, would claim asylum, or else disappear into jobs in the black economy.
Some migrants desperate to reach Britain paid up to £14,000 for a “bespoke service”, which involved travelling with false papers inside a camper van.
Details of the ease with which the smugglers, mainly Pakistanis and Afghanis nationals, regularly evaded British customs and security checks emerged as the 28 suspected smugglers went on trial in the Criminal Correctional Court in Paris.
Police from 10 European countries in June arrested 105 people in the biggest joint operation against illegal immigration staged by the European Union.
The defendants, who deny the charges, face up to 10 years in prison for criminal conspiracy and working as an organised gang to facilitate illegal entry and residency in France.
The Paris trial is set to run until March 26, with similar ones being held in Belgium, Germany and Holland.
Eric Besson, France’s immigration minister, has pledged to make ports like Calais “watertight” to illegal migrants, but there are currently some 1500 people sleeping rough in the area as they try to get to Britain.