People smuggler says trafficking 'easier since Brexit' as he urges 'refugee' to make false asylum claim

1 October 2023, 06:46 | Updated: 1 October 2023, 06:51

The people smuggler in Calais
The people smuggler in Calais. Picture: The News Agents Investigates/Global Player

By Kit Heren

A Calais people smuggler has been filmed coaching a 'refugee' on how to lie to UK officials to claim asylum, as he said that trafficking people across the Channel had become easier since Brexit.

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Global's The News Agents Investigates podcast sent an undercover reporter to Calais to secure a small boats Channel crossing for a supposed relative.

Chilling footage from the undercover interaction showed the smuggler revealing how the process of moving the 'cousin' from northern France to the UK would take place.

"When the boat goes into the English Channel, police are waiting for you... a small boat and you go to England.

Listen to the full The News Agents Investigates podcast on Global Player.

People smuggler investigation part 1

"This is very, very safe."

Dozens of people have died making the dangerous journey across the English Channel, in small, often-overcrowded boats. Six died in August when their boat capsized in the Channel, which is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Roughly 24,000 migrants have crossed the Channel in small boats so far this year, and more than 100,000 have made the journey since 2018.

The trafficker added: "Don’t worry. I have sent families with children aged one years old, babies… Maximum fifteen people in the boat."

Asked by the undercover reporter what would happen when the cousin arrived in the UK, the smuggler said: "You go there and you [claim] asylum. Asylum, like normal.

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People smuggler investigation part 2

"You go to hotel - 4*."

Addressing the issue of claiming asylum, the trafficker said "you have to be ready" for the asylum interview.

"This is going to be like eight months, maybe like six months later. They ask questions to Afghan people, Kurd people.

"You have to make a good case. Political. Humanity. Political is good. Political they cannot bring you back to your country."

Told by the reporter that the cousin is from India, which has a stable political situation, another trafficker said: "He can say 'I have a problem with the Bombay mafia'".

People smuggler investigation part 3

The smuggler said that moving people into the UK had become easier since Brexit. "Now England is out of Europe it is very good for us… no fingerprints," he added. He charged £1,500 for the trip, claiming that other smugglers would demand £2,500.

Since Brexit, the UK is not a party to the returns agreements that allow a country to transport irregular migrants back to the original EU country where they first arrived. The UK has separate returns agreements with Albania, Iraq, Pakistan, Vietnam and Georgia.

Another method of managing irregular migrant arrivals - the plan to transport them to Rwanda - has been mired in controversy and legal delays. No one has actually been sent to the African country yet under the scheme, which was ruled unlawful in June.

People smuggler investigation part 4

The Rwanda plan was proposed to deter potential migrants from even making the Channel crossing.

But a man intending to make the perilous journey told The News Agents Investigates host Lewis Goodall that he had never even heard of the policy.

Asked in Calais about the proposal, Mohammed, an Iraqi, said: "‘No, I don’t know… I’m not going to Rwanda; it is not safe in Rwanda."

The camp in Calais
The camp in Calais. Picture: The News Agents

Asked why he left Iraq and wants to come to the UK, Mohammed said: "Iraq is not good.

"Everyone is going to England [because] England is good… Iraq is not safe… Everyone in Iraq has guns to kill men".

The News Agents' Lewis Goodall
The News Agents' Lewis Goodall. Picture: The News Agents

Mohammed said he was not afraid of crossing the Channel. "No, there is no danger," he said. "There is just fifteen people going to the boat. There is no danger."