People smugglers cut Channel migrant crossing prices by more than half


People smuggling gangs have more than halved small boat prices to their lowest on record in an attempt to counter the collapse in Albanians crossing the Channel.

Kurdish gangs have dropped the price for a seat on a small boat to the UK to just £1,500, the cheapest charge for a cross-Channel journey since the trade first began in 2018. The price is more than half the current standard price of £3,500 and more than a third of the £5,000 average charge last year.

It comes as the number of Albanians crossing the Channel has fallen by 90 per cent after the UK signed a new fast-track deportation deal with Albania in December last year.

Ministers have also ramped up enforcement of illegal working in the UK while police forces have targeted multiple raids at cannabis farming which is dominated by Albanian gangs.

Ministers believe the measures have acted as a deterrent for Albanians, who accounted for a quarter of the 45,755 migrants who crossed the Channel last year.

On Monday, Home Office figures showed that nearly 24,000 migrants have so far crossed the Channel this year - as 500 were detected on board ten boats arriving over the weekend.

Larger boats

It is down by around 20 per cent on 2022, largely because of the decline in the number of Albanians, although there have been increases in the number of Afghans, Turks and Indians.

The adverts offering passage across the Channel for £1,500 were posted on Instagram, with the simple headline: “France’s route to the United Kingdom. Value of a person £1,500.” It was put up by a Kurdish people smuggling gang, which has traditionally specialised in transporting Albanians.

It also included the use of Arabic in the sales pitch, targeting North Africans who are crossing the Mediterranean from Tunisia in increasing numbers.

The lower price also reflects a change in tactics by the people smugglers who are commissioning larger boats, carrying between 50 and 60 migrants, which boosts their profits.

A total of 499 people arrived across the three-day spell from Friday to Sunday with 234 people arriving in five boats on Friday alone. Saturday saw 209 migrants across four dinghies arrive on British shores.

Despite thunderstorm warnings on Sunday, one inflatable with 56 people on board risked the crossing and was picked up by Border Forces.

September’s mild weather has seen totals rise to 3,895 in 71 boats as people smugglers took advantage of calm conditions in recent weeks. The weekend arrivals take the number who have arrived so far this year to 23,996 in 509 boats.