Albanian gangs offer migrants free minibus rides to Channel crossing points – The Telegraph

Ads posted on TikTok by people-smugglers to take refugees to French coast are described as ‘unacceptable’
Albanian people-smuggling gangs are offering free minibus trips from southern Europe to the northern French coast for migrants seeking to cross the Channel.
The gangs are promoting the “100 per cent secure” service in adverts on the social media platform TikTok in which they show pictures of the minibuses with an invitation for people to message in order to sign up.
They are then driven from Albania to trafficking gangs in France, often run by Iraqi Kurds, where they pay up to £5,000 per person to make the 22-mile journey across the Channel in a small boat, according to Albanian immigration sources.
It comes as a record 1,295 migrants crossed the Channel on Monday, beating the previous daily high by more than 100, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). As many as four in 10 are Albanians, according to a UK intelligence report.
On what was the busiest day of the year, the Royal Navy and Border Force intercepted 27 boats from France, each carrying on average nearly 50 migrants, who were brought ashore.
That is the largest number since the previous high of 1,185 in November last year and takes the total of migrants reaching the UK so far this year past 22,500 – more than double the rate in 2021 at the same point.
Despite the record numbers, France on Tuesday said it was owed more than 10 million euros (£8.4 million) by Britain to cover the costs of the 800 officers and air surveillance deployed to tackle migrants on the beaches.
In a statement to The Telegraph, the Hauts-de-France prefecture claimed it was now preventing 60 per cent of attempted crossings but said its officers were in danger of being overwhelmed by rising violence and the use of “flash mobs” of up to 200 migrants to disrupt police efforts to stop them.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is understood to be preparing to announce new security measures within days, although a fresh multi-million pound deal with France to follow last year’s £54 million package has yet to be agreed.
An estimated 200 more migrants reached the UK on Tuesday, taking the total for August to around 6,500 – the second highest monthly total and close to the record of 6,878 in November.
The adverts on TikTok, such as the one above, have seen the traffickers offering “bargain” prices and Channel crossings on small boats that have “never been cheaper”, from £5,000 to as little as £3,500 per person.
Border Force experts suggested people-smugglers may be cutting prices to open up new markets such as Albanians previously unable to afford the charges.
The adverts offered minibuses from Shkoder, in northern Albania, to Dunkirk. “Shkoder to Dunkirk everyday trips. For more info DM,” said one. “Journey every day. 100 per cent secure,” said another with a video showing a grey minibus.
“Boys just started the journey to Dunkirk. Thanx boys. God helps you. Hurry up. Can get info DM,” said a third with a video from behind the driver’s seat as a car speeds along a dual carriageway at night.
An Albanian immigration source said: “The Albanian gangs provide the people and link up with the Kurds, who provide the boats and the logistics.
“The Albanians are coming for economic reasons. There is huge poverty in Albania and they want to get to the UK for a better life and good employment. Most end up working in the black market, especially in construction.
“Some of them – especially the younger boys – get involved in criminality, working in cannabis farms, in order to pay off the £5,000 they have paid for the crossing.”
Shkoder, a city with high unemployment rates, has been described as the Palermo of Albania because of its reputation as a base for family criminal gangs. An Albanian from the city working as a “gardener” in a UK cannabis farm was murdered earlier this month.
Tory MPs on Tuesday demanded fast-track removal of illegal Albanian migrants, given that the UK has a deportation agreement with the Balkan state, a rethink of the deal with France to only pay on results and preparations to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, said: “We simply cannot afford to carry on with failed French agreements and should only pay by results – that means the result of people not arriving here illegally by small boats launched from France.”
Tim Loughton, a member of the home affairs dommittee and a former minister, said he would have “no problem” with the UK derogating from parts of the ECHR if that was required to safeguard plans to send migrants to Rwanda to claim asylum – a policy currently stalled by human rights challenges.
Ms Patel said: “Social media posts used by criminal people smugglers promoting illegal crossings are totally unacceptable. This Government is already tackling this deceitful online propaganda with law enforcement, social media companies and overseas governments.”
She said no one should doubt the determination of the Government to break the people-smugglers’ business model and “relocate those who are making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys into the UK”.
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