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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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Preference for fentanyl highest among young, white opioid users in US, study finds

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preference for fentanyl highest among young, white opioid users

US opioid users who prefer the drugs they take to contain fentanyl are more likely to be young, white addicts who consume illicit substances on a daily basis, according to study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Researchers from the institution polled more than 300 opioid users in three US states, discovering that 27% of respondents expressed a preference for their opioids to contain fentanyl, which is said to be as many as 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

According to the results of the survey, the median age of those who prefer their opioids to contain fentanyl was 38, which compared to 45 for those who would rather their drugs did not.

Ethnically, some 59% of those who prefer their drugs to contain fentanyl identified as being non-Hispanic white, compared to only 29% who like their opioids to be fentanyl-free.

In a statement, study author Susan Sherman said: “These findings will help us think about how best to target interventions to prevent opioid overdoses.

“Preference for fentanyl for a minority of participants likely reflects the fact that in their street opioid markets, fentanyl-containing products are all they’ve known and used.”

In March, data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that overdose deaths linked to the consumption of fentanyl in the US were rising fastest among African Americans.

The statistics showed that while non-Hispanic white people continued to account for most overdose deaths linked to the drug, fatalities associated with fentanyl were rising fastest among non-Hispanic black users.

Separately, American businessman Stephen Schwarzman this week told CBNC that Beijing officials are working to stop shipments of fentanyl from leaving China, where illicit factories produce large quantities of the synthetic opioid to sell into countries such as the US.

“There’s a huge reorganisation going on in China regarding fentanyl to try to shut it down,” Schwarzman said after a trip to the country.

“And if what [officials there told me] is true, you will see this really going down quickly.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly accused China of failing to do enough to prevent shipments of fentanyl from being exported from within its borders to the US.

Last month, Beijing hit back by claiming the US was attempting to pass the blame for its spiralling opioid crisis, urging the White House to examine the domestic drivers of the epidemic.

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EU customs authorities saw fake goods seizures soar last year after counterfeiters sent more parcels through post

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EU customs authorities saw fake good seizures soar

Seizure of fake goods imported into the European Union rose last year as customs agencies across the 28-natiom bloc saw a marked increase in counterfeit items being smuggled into member states in small parcels in express and postal traffic, according to new figures released by the European Commission.

In 2018, the number of consignments intercepted in EU nations rose from 57,433 during the previous year to 69,354, although the total number of induvial fake items taken out of circulation by member state customs workers decreased compared to previous years.

A total of nearly 27 million bogus articles with an estimated street value of almost €740 million ($813 million) were seized in member states over the 12-month period.

Counterfeit tobacco products were the most seized item in the EU in 2018, accounting for 15% of all fake products intercepted.

These were followed closely by toys (14%), packaging material (9%), labels, tags and stickers (9%) and clothing (8%).

Household items such as bathing and beauty products, pharmaceuticals, toys, and electrical household goods accounted for nearly 37% of the total number of intercepted items, the majority of which had come from China.

North Macedonia was found to be the source of the highest number of counterfeit alcoholic beverages, while the leading source of other beverages, perfumes and cosmetics was Turkey.

Away from mainland China, a high number of counterfeit watches, smartphones and accessories, ink cartridges and toners, CDs/DVDs, labels, tags and stickers seized in the EU in 2018 had been imported from Hong Kong, while the main source of bogus computer equipment was India.

Elsewhere, Cambodia was the leading source of counterfeit cigarettes, while the highest amount of fake packaging material came from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In a statement, EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici said: “Customs officers across the EU have seen success in tracking down and seizing counterfeit goods that are often dangerous for consumers.

“Their job is made even more difficult by the rise in small packages entering the EU through online sales.

“Protecting the integrity of our Single Market and Customs Union, and effective enforcement of intellectual property rights in the international supply chain are also priorities. We need to continue stepping up the efforts against counterfeiting and piracy.”

In March, a report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office revealed that counterfeit products account for 3.3% of all global trade.

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Spanish and French police break up major child abduction and people smuggling network

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child abduction and people smuggling network

A Europol-backed operation involving police officers from Spain and France has resulted in the arrest of 29 suspected members of a human trafficking network that incited children to abscond from protection centres in Spain and travel to western Europe.

The gang, which is also said to have been involved in the smuggling of drugs, livestock and illicit tobacco, used Algerian, Malian, Moroccan and Syrian recruiters to target both adult and child migrants from their own countries.

Once recruited, the migrants were trafficked from the Spanish port city of Almería to France on buses owned by businesses based in France, Morocco and Spain.

The contraband was hidden in specially-constructed hidden compartments that had been built into the vehicles in order to avoid the attention of law enforcement agents.

Of the 26 suspects arrested, 26 were detained in Spain, and three in France.

Eleven of those held were remanded in custody.

As well as the 29 arrests, the operation also resulted in the confiscation of €33,000 ($36,270) in cash, various documents, computer equipment, more than 200kgs of cannabis, a vehicle and a trailer, all of which were seized during searches of 14 properties.

The gang’s recruiters are said to have approached migrants who had recently arrived in Almeria having entered Spain illegally, offering to take them by bus to France or Brussels for three times more than a regular passenger would be charged.

The Malian recruiters are said to have specialised in targeting unaccompanied migrant children at a protection centre in Almeria, encouraging the minors to use violence against social workers in order to escape.

According to Spanish police, the gang paid a local hotel owner in Almeria to provide accommodation to migrants while they waited to be herded onto buses, with many being forced to sleep in overcrowded rooms.

Police launched an investigation into the network behind the plot following the arrest of a Spanish national in France who was caught driving a bus carrying 22 irregular migrants, six of whom were children.

The probe led to the discovery of a major criminal network that was allegedly headed up a Moroccan nation who owned a bus company.

In a statement, Europol said: “Europol supported the operation with coordination, analysis and information exchange.

“Europol financed the organisation of an operational meeting and provided on-the-sport operational support during the action day with the deployment of two analysts in Spain and one in France to support the action in the field.”

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