Migrant crossing: 15 people found hiding in rock band’s tour van in hope to sneak into UK
The migrants had hoped to be smuggled into the UK, where the van was registered. Many refuse to be picked up by French police for fear of being returned to mainland Europe.
Upon hearing a commotion in the back of the van, the driver, whose vehicle was registered in the UK, called over a security guard to investigate the noise, the news channel BFMTV said.
The two men opened the van’s back doors and saw about 15 people of “North African appearance” hiding inside. All managed to escape on foot.
The tour van was parked inside the Zenith concert hall in northeast Paris, which is located a stone’s throw from the La Villette park, which migrants have often turned into a makeshift camp.
The driver said the van’s trailer had been closed with a padlock and that it did not appear to have been damaged or broken into. He told police that he had left Luxembourg and made a 24-hour stop in the northeastern city of Reims before arriving at the Paris arena at around 5am on Friday morning.
He was arrested and taken to a police station in Paris’s 19th arrondissement for questioning. An investigation into the incident has been launched, BFMTV reported, but the migrants’ whereabouts remain unknown.
The fact the lorry was registered in the UK leads to the assumption the migrants were hoping to be smuggled into Britain. Many migrants reportedly refuse to be picked up by French police for fear of being returned to mainland Europe or deported back to their home countries.
But while scores still attempt to cross over into Britain by hiding in the back of inter-continental lorries, a rising number of migrants from Africa and the Middle East have tried over the past 12 months to cross the Channel from France in flimsy fishing boats or inflatable dinghies.
More than 2,300 migrants had to be rescued after attempting to cross the English Channel in 2019, four times more than in 2018, local authorities in northern France said last month.
In total 261 cases of crossings or failed crossings were recorded by the French and British authorities, mostly in small, overcrowded rubber boats, the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and North Sea said.
The spike in crossings has been linked to a police crackdown to prevent the establishment of migrant tent camps in the border town of Calais and other areas along France’s northern coast.
In September, Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner signed an enhanced action plan to tackle illegal Channel crossings.
The two pledged to “double patrols and deploy new detection equipment to increase interceptions on French beaches” and to “intensify efforts to tackle criminal gangs through strengthened intelligence sharing”.
Ms Patel said she was “confident” the action plan would “lead to a considerable reduction in this illegal activity”.
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