From file: The French and British police work together to try to stop migrants crossing the Channel | Photo: Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
From file: The French and British police work together to try to stop migrants crossing the Channel | Photo: Pascal Rossignol / Reuters

A Moroccan man who tried to smuggle 15 men out of Britain and back to Spain has been jailed for people smuggling, according to a British newspaper.

Britain’s tabloid newspaper The Sun reports that French police on January 31 stopped a Moroccan national in the coastal city of Dunkirk. The man, who had worked as a taxi driver in London, was trying to smuggle 15 Moroccan migrants back out of Britain, through France and to Spain. He was convicted and given a one year jail sentence for people smuggling and aiding illegal stays, reported The Sun.

According to the newspaper, the group of migrants had told the smuggler that they didn’t like the UK and wanted to go to Spain instead.

Moroccan migrants in Spain

Spain is a popular destination for Moroccan migrants, many of whom get jobs or work informally in the vast greenhouses and agricultural land which cover much of the country, particularly in the southern region of Andalucia.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, recorded more than 30,000 migrants irregularly entering Spain via land and sea routes in 2022. At least 1,126 migrants entered Spain last month.

The vast majority of Moroccans who apply for asylum in Spain have their applications rejected. The organization EuroMed Rights wrote at the end of January that in 2022, Spain received 118,842 requests for international protection, but only 14,235 were granted during that year.

Applications from Moroccan citizens were "rejected en masse," wrote the organization. There were 3,905 applications from Moroccan nationals and 3,542 were rejected.

Seeking opportunity

In autumn 2022, the Spanish government approved a package of €30 million for Morocco to tighten its migration control, according to EuroMed Rights. Morocco has received €346 million in total since 2019 to bolster its policing of the borders and other forms of migration control, the organization wrote. The package is expected to continue until at least 2027, by which time it will have received a total of €500 million.

The volunteer organization Alarm Phone said in 2022 that migrants from North Africa say they are given "the hard jobs" in Spain, yet many still seek work there.

The Moroccan migrants who, according to The Sun, wanted to leave the UK, may have hoped they would have better job prospects in Spain than in Britain. However, when they arrived in France with the smuggler, they were reportedly "intercepted by the police."

The migrants themselves had reportedly paid a fee of around €200 per person to be taken from the UK to Paris, from where they were then hoping to travel to Spain. After the police intercepted the group, the migrants were reportedly allowed to continue their journeys. However, The Sun states that since their records have now been registered in France, they will have a difficult task attempting to settle in Spain.

Anglo-French cooperation

This is not the first time that mini cab drivers operating in London have been accused of people smuggling offenses. In September 2022, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) investigated a group of five mini cab drivers from East London.

The NCA’s investigation, codenamed Operation Symbolry, claimed to have uncovered a London-based organized crime group which was involved in smuggling migrants both in and out of the UK using lorries.

Others suspected of involvement in the group went on trial and some were jailed earlier in 2022. The alleged ringleader, stated the NCA, "pleaded guilty to conspiring to move people into and out of the UK."

The NCA also regularly works with its counterparts in France as part of an Anglo-French Joint Intelligence Center which was established in July 2020. According to the NCA, since the center was set up "59 organized criminal groups involved in small boat crossings in France have been dismantled."

The project that both French and British officers participate in is called Project INVIGOR, and it works with the UK’s organized immigration crime taskforce as well as on "wider threats that require Anglo-French law enforcement cooperation."


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