Channel tragedy: ‘Smugglers tell their clients it’s just a lake — but it’s not’

Like many of the 31,500 refugees and migrants so far this year who have stepped fearfully into small boats on French beaches and set a course for Britain, 30 perilous miles away across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the 27 who died on Wednesday probably had less than an hour’s notice they would be leaving.

The criminal networks organising them have been giving their clients less and less warning about the autumn cold and water temperatures, what the channel crossing is and how they gonna transport them.

Depending on the type of network and the kind of deal they have done, the passengers will have paid between €1,000 and €2,000 for a single trip, with no money back if they are rescued at sea or the boat has to turn back, or up to €10,000 for multiple attempts, with a supposed guarantee of success.

Their smuggler is increasingly likely to have been part of a highly professional network. French police say one such gang dismantled this week was transporting as many as 250 people a month across the Channel, charging up to €6,000 a person for multi-trip packages and pocketing more than €3m.

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