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Allowing migrants to mass in Calais is fuelling a brutal people smuggling trade

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brutal people smuggling trade

The clearance of the Calais Jungle camp in October 2016 was supposed to spell the end of would-be asylum seekers using the region around the French port town as a base from which to launch clandestine attempts to sneak into the UK. In the direct aftermath of the bulldozing of the squalid shantytown, which for years stood as a monument to Europe’s failure to get to grips with the migrant crisis, French officials declared the operation a success, informing reporters that every inhabitant of the site had been transferred to reception centres around the country to have their applications for asylum processed. But while politicians and senior police figures congratulated themselves on a job well done, campaigners and charities on the ground were telling a very different story, describing scores of migrants, many of whom were children, sleeping rough in and around Calais. More than a year later, the situation not only looks just as bleak, but appears to be getting much worse.

While the French government has managed to prevent another Jungle camp being built over the intervening months, migrants have continued to make their way to Calais in the hope of crossing the Channel to Britain in steadily increasing numbers, fuelling a thriving people smuggling trade that often involves extreme violence that is said to have left inhabitants of the town at the end of their tether. It may have been the case that the destruction of the Jungle camp led to a temporary respite in the criminality associated with the human trafficking gangs that exploit the misery of migrants desperate to pursue their dreams of a better life in the UK, but a recent surge in the number of arrivals in Calais has coincided with an apparent rise in the type of violent incidents that occurred with alarming regularity before the Jungle slum was torn down.

In January, there were believed to be some 1,000 migrants sleeping rough in and around the Calais region, including at least 70 lone children. That figure is reported to have risen sharply over recent weeks after the UK and France signed a border treaty that involves Britain making a larger contribution towards efforts to prevent migrants from attempting to cross the Channel. According to a report from the Observer, the newly-signed treaty raised false hope among migrants that they would have an easier time reaching the UK once they arrive in Calais. As the number of migrants travelling to the town has risen, unprecedented levels of violence are said to have broken out between rival gangs jostling for control of the highly-lucrative people smuggling trade. Last week, a mass brawl broke out between Afghan and Eritrean gangs, resulting in at least five migrants suffering gunshot wounds.

Speaking after the incident, French interior minister Gerard Collomb said: “This is a level of violence that hasn’t been seen before. We have reached an escalation of violence that has become unbearable for people from Calais and migrants. There will be people here at their wits’ ends faced with this increasingly violent presence among a certain number of migrants, who it is plain to see are organised in gangs. I… reaffirm our mobilisation against the smugglers who feed daily violence and brawls.” The problem has become so acute that French police are reported to have deployed an extra 100 officers in and around the Calais area. It is thought the rising level of violence has been caused by an increased rivalry between people smuggling gangs, who are said to be fighting over the growing number of UK-bound migrants arriving in Calais. People trafficking gangs can charge migrants as much as €10,000 (€12,265) each to be smuggled across the English Channel in the back of trucks.

With such huge rewards on offer, it is hardly surprising that the Calais region remains a magnet for violent people smuggling networks that have developed a reputation for meting out brutal attacks to protect their businesses. These groups will continue to prey on migrants all the while would-be asylum seekers are allowed to mass in and around Calais in the hope of travelling on to Britain. Accepting the fact that migrants who reach Calais are typically able to do so thanks to other EU countries failing to fulfil their responsibilities under the Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that refugees must apply for asylum in the first European country they arrive in, the time has come for France, with support from the UK, to take decisive action.

Migrants who travel to Calais in the hope of reaching Britain have typically turned down the opportunity to claim asylum at reception centres in France. By failing to compel them to do so, the French authorities are fuelling an illicit people smuggling trade that is not only hugely distressing to the residents of the country’s northern towns, but immensely damaging to the migrants who are its primary victims. As long as migrants are permitted to make their way to towns such as Calais, people smuggling gangs will continue to enjoy brisk business, which they appear to be more than willing to protect with increasing levels of brutality.

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NGO Traffic warns of rise in international trafficking of glass eels

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Traffic warns of rise in international trafficking of glass eels

Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic has warned of an increase in the international trafficking of glass eels as the new fishing season gets underway across Europe.

Urging law enforcement agencies across the continent to remain vigilant for wildlife smugglers involved in the illegal trade of eel species, the NGO noted that the European Eel is considered to be critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Regulators ended the international commercial eel trade to or from the EU back in 2010 after member states concluded it was too risky to allow it to continue, and imposed a zero-import/export policy that still remains in place today.

In a statement, Hiromi Shiraishi, Traffic’s eel trade expert, said: “Illegal trade in European Eels, particularly glass eels, is the most serious wildlife crime issue the EU currently faces

“Traffickers exploited the last fishing season as an opportunity to smuggle glass eels to lucrative Asian markets and while TRAFFIC applauds the professional and intelligence-led criminal investigations which helped to disrupt the organised criminal syndicates orchestrating the trafficking, Traffic urges relevant authorities to ensure they prevent further smuggling this season—European Eel populations simply cannot withstand the sustained illegal offtake.”

Earlier this month, Europol announced that police forces across Europe confiscated 5,789kgs of smuggled glass eels with an estimated value of €11.58 million ($12.6 million) during the 2018/19 fishing season.

The latest edition of Operation Lake, which was coordinated by Europol, Eurojust, Interpol and the EU Wildlife/CITES Enforcement Group, saw the detention of more than 150 suspected eel traffickers, and the reintroduction of all seized eels back into their natural habitat.

Huge quantities of European eels are smuggled out of EU member states every year by traffickers seeking to profit from demand for the animal in Asia, where its meat is considered a delicacy and domestic stocks are too low to meet high local demand.

At the end of October, the AFP news agency reported that two Chinese nationals had each been handed 10-month jail terms and slapped with fines of €7,000 by a court in France after being convicted of attempting to smuggle 60kgs of live baby eels in their luggage onto a flight to China.

The man and woman were stopped by customs officers at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and were found to be in possession of the eels, which were contained in plastic bags filled with water inside four suitcases.

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Woman carrying cannabis bricks in bogus baby belly arrested by Argentine police

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cannabis bricks in bogus baby belly

Law enforcement officers in Argentina have arrested a woman close to the South American country’s border with Chile for attempting to smuggle cannabis concealed inside a fake baby bump.

The woman was searched after police discovered that her travelling companion was in possession of a smaller quantity of cannabis while the pair were on a long-distance coach journey from the city of Mendoza to Caleta Olivia in province of Santa Cruz.

After stopping the pair at a police checkpoint in Valle de Uco close to Mendoza, police found that the woman had hidden 15 packages of cannabis in her bogus baby bump.

The man with whom she was travelling was discovered to be in possession of two packages of the drug in his hand luggage.

Police stopped the pair while conducting routine checks on passengers using the coach route.

In total, the woman and the man were found to be carrying in excess of 4.5kgs of cannabis.

The improvised fake pregnancy bump was held together with a starch-based paste and secured to the woman’s stomach to make it appear as though she was with child.

Posting a picture of the fake baby belly on Twitter, Argentine security minister Patricia Bullrich told her followers: “She made a belly with glue, and hid 15 packages of marijuana inside it while pretending to be pregnant and attempted to move it from Mendoza to Santa Cruz .

“Police arrested the false pregnant woman and her accomplice, preventing her from trafficking the drugs she was carrying.”

In a statement, Argentine police said: “While carrying out control checks, officers stopped a group travelling from Mendoza to Caleta Olivia.

“During the inspection, police observed that a passenger was carrying a black bag that contained two brick-like packages.

“Continuing with their inspection, officers came across a young woman who had a lump in her belly, pretending to be pregnant.

“The two passengers were asked to get off the bus and were later arrested.”

In September 2013, the BBC reported that police in Colombia had arrested a Canadian woman when she attempted to board a flight to Toronto while wearing a fake baby belly that was filled with cocaine.

Police said the woman was searched after she became agitated when asked by a customs officer how far along she was with her pregnancy.

She was found be carrying two sealed bags that contained 2kgs of cocaine.

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Lithuanian and Spanish police smash violent sex trafficking gang that forced scores of women to work as prostitutes

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Lithuanian and Spanish police smash violent sex trafficking gang

A joint operation carried out by law enforcement agencies from Lithuania and Spain has resulted in the break-up of an organised crime network that trafficked women for the purposes of prostitution.

In a day of action coordinated by investigators from both countries, and supported by Europol and Eurojust, 50 searches were conducted at several locations across the two nations, resulting in the seizure of a quantity of cash, drugs, counterfeit documents, weapons and ammunition.

The operation also saw the detention of two leaders of the criminal network in Spain, the arrest of 13 suspected members of the gang in Lithuania, and the identification of 118 suspected trafficking victims from a number of countries including Ukraine and Belarus.

In a statement, Lietuvos Policija said the effort was the result of a two-year investigation into the illegal activities of the trafficking network, which is said to have used extreme violence to force victims to work as prostitutes in Lithuania.

Those arrested are said to have previously been convicted of a range of offences, including robbery, human trafficking, profiting from prostitution, and criminal damage.

All of those held, who were taken into custody where they are currently awaiting trail, have had their assets temporarily frozen.

“Europol supported the investigation by providing coordination and analytical support since the early stages of the joint investigation in 2018,” Europol said.

“Europol supported the action day by providing on-the-spot technical and analytical support in Lithuania and Spain, and by activating the virtual command post to speed up operational information exchange.

“Europol also deployed experts to Lithuania to cross-check operational information in real-time against Europol’s databases.”

Last week, four members of an eastern European sex trafficking gang were jailed for a total of over 36 years for smuggling Slovakian women to Scotland and forcing them into sham marriages, slavery or prostitution.

Vojtech Gombar, Anil Wagle, Jana Sandorova and Ratislav Adam were convicted in October of what the High Court in Edinburgh was told were “utterly repugnant” crimes.

Back in February, a pair of brothers from Romania who trafficked women into Spain before forcing them to work as prostitutes were handed jail terms totalling 108 years.

A Spanish court heard Cristian and Sebastián Sandulache, who were said to have made as much as €11,000 ($12,096) a night by forcing their victims to sell sex, inserted metal balls into their penises in order to cause maximum pain to their rape victims.

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