People smugglers have massively expanded their launch sites for migrants’ boats bound for Britain across more than 100 miles of Channel coastline.
It means longer journeys and potentially more deaths.
The area police now vainly struggle to control reaches all the way from Belgium, through Dunkirk and Boulogne, and down the French coast to St-Valery-sur-Somme, 75 miles down from the original hotspot of Calais.
Dinghy voyages could take six hours, with migrants hitting English soil anywhere from Southend in Essex to Hastings in Sussex, or even further. The Mail’s investigations in snowy France this week found that while the Government’s Rwanda plan grinds its way through Parliament, the people smuggling industry is booming.
Last night a Conservative MP said migrants were laughing at ‘deluded lawyers and bishops’ opposed to the Bill – and joined others calling for it to be hurried through the House of Lords, having passed the Commons this week.
The danger of drowning with up to 70 passengers, at 2,000 Euros (£1,700) a head, crammed on to each dinghy, is clearly little deterrent. On Sunday five migrants, believed to be Syrian, perished near Wimereux, 25 miles south of Calais.
Migrants walk through the French coastal commune of Wimereux on Wednesday afternoon after an aborted attempt to cross the channel
Many were seen wrapped in blankets and some with life jackets standing at a Bus Stop
The area police now vainly struggle to control reaches all the way from Belgium, through Dunkirk and Boulogne, and down the French coast to St-Valery-sur-Somme, 75 miles down from the original hotspot of Calais
Yet when the Mail arrived in the holiday town on Wednesday, a fresh group of 70 were trudging away from the beach, some still in life-jackets and looking as young as 12, after an aborted departure when the much-maligned French police stepped in.
Snow began falling soon after. Officers arrested a suspected people smuggler in a van nearby, along with a number of migrants. But many others melted away into the town.
This shows British taxpayer-funded French police patrols along the previously established departure areas, between Wimereux and Dunkirk, do stop some dinghies.
Officers, such as three van-loads we saw by the beach, puncture boats being pumped up in the dunes, and send the migrants away with a flea in their ear – and no criminal charges. But the elusive people smugglers are increasingly launching ever further inland, up rivers and estuaries where coastal patrols do not extend.
Police sources say so-called ‘taxi’ dinghies set off empty, with migrants told to wait in the sea at the coast, waist deep, and board in the water. With officers barred from interfering with already-afloat craft through fear of causing drownings, the voyages are more likely to begin successfully.
Last weekend police stopped 50 migrants, including women and children, on the beach at St Valery – well on the way to Normandy. It is believed to be the first attempted departure so far south. And it is unlikely to be the last. A French police source said: ‘We are operating in very difficult conditions.
Others were seen brazenly wandering in large groups through the commune
Dinghy voyages could take six hours, with migrants hitting English soil anywhere from Southend in Essex to Hastings in Sussex, or even further
‘The field of operations in the fight against the people smugglers now stretches all the way from Belgium through Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne, and down to Le Touquet, as far as Berck – and beyond.
‘The huge amounts of money spent on fencing and increased patrols on the beaches of Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne have simply created a situation where the smugglers are looking elsewhere.
‘These ‘taxi boats’ seem to be having it all their own way because they can strike where they want over a huge area. The migrants have to wade out in the freezing water and wait for the taxi boats to pick them up. No wonder there are deaths due to drowning and cold. It’s a horrible business.’
France’s desperate local authorities have strung medieval-style chain barriers across three waterways – one this week, 50 miles from Calais – in a desperate bid to stem the flow of dinghies.
A senior lifeboatman who asked not to be named said: ‘The boats are setting off from further down the coast and that means the distances to England are longer, so they spend more time at sea.
‘There is the cold factor. If they end up in the water they will survive for maybe 15 minutes.’ Three French departments – the Nord, the Pas-de-Calais and now the Somme – are involved. They harbour countless potential launch points, impossible for police to cover. Small wonder last weekend some 260 migrants reached Dover, and on Wednesday 358 more.
Wimereux’s migrant-besieged mayor Jean-Luc Dubaele blamed ‘El Dorado’ Britain’s generous benefits and cash-in-hand job opportunities. ‘I am angry, like all the mayors of neighbouring towns,’ he said this week.
‘Migrants want to go to England because they are well-received, they can work without problem.
‘We will have to bang our fist on the table with the English – let England be less of an El Dorado for migrants.’ A report yesterday said there had also been a surge in largely sub-Saharan African migrants, poorer than the rest, stowing themselves away on lorries and cars again.
On Thursday cars boarding the Shuttle from Calais to Folkestone were put through giant X-rays seeking uninvited guests.
The major migrant basecamp in France has for years been between motorways and railway lines at Grande Synthe, near Dunkirk.
Police have installed miles of fencing and concrete barriers, and felled woods, in a bid to clear the area. But migrants still gather there for hot food from charities, and to meet Kurdish smuggling gangs. On Wednesday two Eritrean migrants, Fatima and Mary, 25, told the Mail they would be in England soon. They found the notion they could be flown to Rwanda laughable.
Fatima, 24, said: ‘We’ve been here three months. We paid Kurdish smugglers 2,000 Euros to go on Sunday – but the police slashed our boat and kicked us off the beach. Our seven friends, also women, got through though. They’re now in England.
‘We’ll be with them soon. The smugglers told us to be ready any day for good weather. And no, we’re not worried we’ll be sent to Rwanda. It’s not going to happen – come on!’
Last night Conservative MPs said Parliament had to act fast to pass the policy. Sir John Hayes said: ‘The migrants are laughing about Rwanda because they don’t believe they’ll be sent there.
‘They’re really laughing at those daft people trying to stop it happening – pressure groups, deluded lawyers, and Church of England bishops. Gareth Johnson added: ‘Nobody will give evil people traffickers money if it’s just going to result in being sent to Rwanda.’