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Thousands waiting in tents to cross Channel in small boats


In woodland near the Dunkirk suburb of Grande-Synthe, many tents and other make-shift structures have been erected, evidence, if evidence is needed, of thousands of people camped around Dunkirk and Calais, waiting to cross the English Channel in small boats.

It comes as another 656 people made the journey in 15 inflatable boats on Friday.


The area around Grande-Synthe and nearby Loon-Plage has been at the centre of violent clashes in recent months, as Albanian criminal gangs seek to control the people smuggling operations in the area.

The latest small boat arrivals on Friday take the number who have crossed the English Channel so far this year to 32,321.

That figure is almost 4,000 more than the number who crossed in the whole of last year.

Border Force facilities at Dover harbour are "critically overloaded" with staff having to acquire more than a dozen new tents to provide shelter for those being processed there.

Earlier this week, French authorities revealed they had disrupted a major people smuggling operation.

Three Iraqi men and three French nationals have now been charged with people smuggling offences.

The arrested followed information shared by authorities in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

Authorities said they uncovered a factory in the city of Lille which was responsible for supplying much of the equipment need to cross the Channel.

French officials recovered 13 small boats, 14 outboard motors and more than 700 life jackets.

The group is suspected of organising 80 separate attempted crossing, of which 50 are believed to have succeeded, netting the gang -€80,000 for each boat trip.