A gang of alleged Afghan people smugglers including a woman suspected of multiple counts of manslaughter was today being held in connection with the deaths of 27 UK-bound migrants in the English Channel.
Prosecutors in France confirmed on Friday that the 10 suspects were being linked with the horrific crime that unfolded last November.
There were only two survivors after an inflatable dinghy collapsed as it tried to reach the coast of England.
Investigators believe that the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had taken £2500 each from all on board for their illegal passage to the UK.
She has now been charged with multiple counts of ‘manslaughter, involuntary wounding, putting lives in danger, and assisting foreigners in staying in France illegally as part of a criminal gang,’ said an investigating source.
Nine others who were involved in the network – including some Pakistanis originally from Afghanistan and two French nationals – also face a range of charges in relation to people smuggling.
‘All were part of an Afghan network which was set up after the Taliban regained power in their country last August,’ said the source.
‘They were responding to a huge illegal market in Afghans who wanted to get out of Afghanistan when the war ended, and the Americans left.’
A picture of the flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais in November 2021, killing 27 people including seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children. 15 people have now been arrested in relation to this incident
Many of the migrants who were on the inflatable dinghy last November were young men from Afghanistan (pictured)
Almost 13,000 migrants have crossed the Channel so far this year
Four Afghans perished on the boat in the Channel, along with 16 Iraqi Kurds, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese migrant.
All were victims of a scandal that has seen hundreds of small boats crossing, and apparently leaving both the French and British governments powerless to stop it.
Police arrested 15 people – two women and 13 men – in connection with the Afghan network during coordinated raid across France on Monday morning.
Five have since been released without charge, while the rest remain in secure police stations in the Paris areas.
American forces left Afghanistan in August 2021, following a two decades of conflict against the Taliban and associated terrorist groups.
Withdrawal led to a vast exodus of Afghans, including many with close links to the British Army.
Many have relatives already in the UK, and speak English, meaning they want to settle in Britain after claiming asylum.
This prompts many of them to try and get across the Channel after paying people smugglers who prey on the migrant camps that have sprung up along the northern coast of France.
French police made 15 arrests over Sunday and Monday, but five people were released without charge (pictured French officers patrolling a beach near Calais)
A French sea rescue boat was seen carrying the bodies of migrants recovered off the coast of Calais after the tragedy which saw at least 27 migrants, including five women and a girl, drown as they tried to cross the Channel
Almost 2,800 migrants have been intercepted crossing the Channel this month – more than the entire figure for 2020
Boris Johnson (left) told Emmanuel Macron (right) that British boots are needed on the ground in France to stop evil slave gangs ‘getting away with murder’ after at the 27 migrants drowned in the deadliest-ever Channel crossing
Migrants were seen crossing the channel the very next day after 27 people drowned the day before
Only two people survived the disaster in November, which sparked tension between the British and French governments.
President Emmanuel Macron vowed France would not allow the Channel to become a ‘cemetery’.
France urged Britain to help more with cracking down on people-smuggling gangs, with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin saying: ‘We need intelligence. Responses to requests from the French police are not always given.’
The rebuke followed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposal to send back all migrants and asylum seekers who land in England to France, a move rejected by Paris.
Following Britain’s departure from the European Union, it does not have a returns treaty with France or the wider EU.
The spat added to a litany of post-Brexit rows between the two sides, which also include a dispute on fishing rights in the Channel which at times threatened to spill over into a full-blown trade war.
Despite a more conciliatory tone since, and promises of more cooperation, the number of migrants seeking to cross the Channel from France to England surged in the first half of this year, according to the French interior ministry.