Ruthless traffickers have set up a base in Belgium to smuggle migrants across the Channel.
The Daily Mail has established that organised crime networks calling themselves the ‘boat mafia’ have moved in to Brussels to profit from a huge rise in migrants.
Some 1,000 arrivals are using the city as an alternative staging post to France from which to plan their entry to the UK.
Every bed in the hostels, hotels and charity refuges across Brussels is full, with a six-week wait.
Twice a day about 600 migrants queue up along the canal quayside in Brussels for free meals, pictured
About 600 migrants sleep in Maximilien park near the main train station. Others sleep on a quayside by the central canal.
At night the smugglers move in, offering a trip across the Channel in an inflatable dinghy for as little as £500.
Migrants told the Mail they have been offered places on bigger boats for a ‘more guaranteed crossing’ costing between £2,000 and £3,000 per person.
Some have started selling cannabis and cocaine to save up enough money.
Migrants rob other migrants at knifepoint for the fare, according to a group from Afghanistan.
Abuzar Afzali, 30, who is from a village outside Kabul, said: ‘The park is a dangerous place at night. There are men with knives there and sometimes the boat mafia come.
At night the smugglers move in, offering a trip across the Channel in an inflatable dinghy for as little as £500. Pictured, migrants are brought to Dover harbour by Border Patrol
‘I want to pay them what they ask for so I can get to the UK, but I don’t have the money yet. Some sell drugs to get the money. These bad men – the boat mafia – are the only way.’
The emergence of a new front in the trafficking market – run mainly by Albanian or Kurdish gangs – will be deeply troubling for the Home Office, which is facing an investigation into its handling of the crisis by the Commons home affairs committee.
This year more than 4,000 migrants