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French court jails people smugglers who took migrants to Britain

The Grande-Synthe migrants' camp in Dunkirk
The Grande-Synthe migrants' camp in Dunkirk Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

A French court has sentenced five people smugglers to prison for helping migrants reach Britain from northern France. The gang's leader, an Iranian Kurd, was sentenced in his absence and an international arrest warrant has been issued for him.

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The court in Dunkirk, on the Channel coast, sentenced the alleged ringleader, known as "Kapa", to six years in jail and a 50,000-euro fine.

But he is on the run, so the French authorities have issued an international warrant for his arrest.

The gang charged 11,500 euros for "guaranteed" passage across the Channel to the UK.

It operated at the Grande Synthe camp near Dunkirk, which is currently home to some 1,500 people, many of them Kurds, between August 2015 and February 2016, when the gang was broken up.

Two other Kurds, an Iranian and an Iraqi, were both jailed for two years.

They were responsible for finding customers and taking them to a highway rest area in Dunkirk to be picked up.

Two Frenchmen who ran a café in the town were found guilty of providing logistical support.

One was jailed for two years, the other one.

A taxi driver accused of transporting migrants was acquitted.

Thousands of migrants who hope to cross the Channel to Britain are camped along the northern French coast, most notoriously in the port of Calais.

Last month French authorities reported a sharp increase in attempts to stow away on lorries that board ferries or shuttle trains to England, leading police unions to speculate that the figure will rise over the summer.

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