By: V4 Agency
The network was busted after years of investigation. Members include police employees, who are suspected of assisting the refugees by obtaining visas and residence permits.
The people smuggling network having accomplices in the police force was apprehended and dismantled in Corsica after almost three years of investigation. Authorities followed an illegal immigrant, also arrested in Corsica, who eventually led them to find members of the ring. According to the CNews news portal, the gang had smuggled hundreds of migrants from Morocco into Europe.
Authorities interrogated the leaders of the network, uncovering that Moroccan nationals smuggled into Europe were given a genuine Chinese or Thai visa at a cost of 8,000 euros in cash, indicating that the smugglers had contacts at the consulate, as well. It turned out that they were also being assisted by a travel agency. After receiving the visa, the migrants set off, seemingly for China or Thailand, but took advantage of the Frankfurt layover to apply for asylum in Germany.
The 20 minutes news portal reports that 195 illegal Moroccan migrants arrived in the German city using this method in the span of a year and a half. However, these migrants did not stay long in the designated German refugee camp, as the members of the network transported them on to France, Italy or Spain.
Those who chose France as the destination had two options: to receive fake documents for 500 euros or to opt for a genuine residence permit issued for 6,000 euros by collaborating employees in the Seine-et-Marne prefecture, neighbouring Paris.
As a result of the investigation carried out by the examining magistrate in Ajaccio, eleven people were arrested, and eight people – four men, four women – four of them French nationals, were charged.
The leader of the network in France is a 47-year-old Moroccan man with no criminal record, residing in the country legally. CNews also reports that the man is a hairdresser and had invested the money from the illegal activity abroad. During a house search investigators seized a car and 16,000 euros in cash. According to press reports, the man denied being the leader of the French smuggling network.
Immigrants are posing an ever increasing problem in France. The data published by the French statistics office Insee reveal that immigrants in the country numbered 6.8 million in 2020, accounting for more than 10 per cent of the population. 2.5 million of them have been granted French citizenship, while the remaining 4.3 million are foreign nationals.
According to 2020 data, almost half of immigrants in France, 47.5 per cent are of African descent, with Algeria and Morocco accounting for 12.7 and 12 per cent of immigrants respectively.
The figures published by the statistics office also show that the number of immigrants arriving in France has been increasing annually, rising from 193,400 in 2006 to 272,400 in 2019.
The former French Immigration Minister Patrick Stefanini estimates the number of foreigners who are illegally in France without documentation have reached around 900,000. A parliamentary report also reveals that the situation is particularly critical in Seine-Saint-Denis department near Paris, where the number of illegal immigrants is thought to be between 150,000 and 400,000.