Nine Afghans have gone on trial in France on charges of attempting to smuggle 53 migrants from Vietnam and Afghanistan through the English Channel into the Britain in 2021. They have been charged with “organized support for illegal migration” and their trial opened on Tuesday in Paris.
Four were being tried for having a leading role and five others for having played a secondary role in smuggling operation.
Between January and March 2021, according to the AFP, the men were accused to have helped migrants set off on dinghies through the dangerous sea crossing on four occasions.
In all four occasions, the passengers were rescued either in French or British waters.
“Several of the defendants were suspected of having bought dinghies as well as life jackets and then depositing them in sand dunes near the seaside town of Wimereux, according to the charge sheet,” the AFP reported.
According to the charge sheet, except for two migrants – one was designated as the boat’s captain in return for free passing and the other tasked with navigating it using GPS –, each of the remaining 51 passengers were charged 1,500 and 4,000 euros ($1,600 to 4,300).
According to the British government, the number of illegal migrants arriving on the shores of southeastern England by small boats increased from more than 28,000 people in 2021 to over 45,000 migrants in 2022.
In November 2021, at least 27 people drowned when their dinghy deflated during the journey. They were mostly Kurds from Iraq and included a child aged seven.
The investigation into that case is still ongoing.
In December 2019, a French court jailed two smugglers – an Afghan and a Dutchman of Guinean origin – for six and three years for manslaughter and aiding illegal migration after a 31-year-old Iranian woman drowned during a crossing.