A people smuggler has told the Daily Express business has never been better for those who profit from deadly small boat Channel crossings.
On a trip to the capital of Albania, Tirana, we met a trafficker who told us about his criminal enterprise on the basis we used an alias; Dini.
He claimed that on busy days between 200 and 500 migrants from the Balkan state contact him to arrange illegal travel to Britain.
His clients remain undeterred by UK government efforts to “stop the small boats” with the UK remaining the sole destination he offers.
The main draw, Dimi told us, is the perception Britain is wealthy and vast sums can be earned from work, especially for those willing to work in cannabis farms.
“All the people want England because England has money,” he said. “They come because they want to work in drug houses [cannabis farms] or have family there.”
“I never counted the number [I help travel illegally to the UK] but it’s high, maybe 6,000 last year,” he added.
The smuggler is deeply sceptical about figures released by the Government claiming that the number of Albanians arriving in the UK on small boats has decreased dramatically this year, compared to the summer of 2022 when it was revealed nearly 2% of the male population of the country had attempted to travel to Britain.
While he says the number being detected may have dropped he is not seeing any drop in the number of people risking everything to travel to Britain.
He explained: “Maybe something changed in England’s strategy [in 2022], that’s why they got caught. But it was the same number [getting to the UK in 2023 as] in the last few years.”
Describing the way in which his criminal enterprise functions, Dini confirmed many of the findings of a previous undercover Express investigation into smuggling which found operations were being run from the UK and used social media to market their services to Albanians wishing to make the risky trip.
“I have two roles,” he explained. “I take the money [from families of migrants who have made it to Britain] and I speak with [customers] on social media channels who want to go [to] England from Albania.
“I have contacts in England, who are my friends, and I talk with the Kurds in France [who organise the boat crossings].”
Dini, who says he became a smuggler as friends were organising crossings from Britain, explained that he collected detailed personal information on migrants, which was used by the Kurdish gangs to correctly identify paying clients and ensure no-one avoided the £4,000 fee for travel.
Payment is only due once the trip has been successfully completed so we pressed Dini on how those who were being held in Border Force facilities were managing to contact traffickers to confirm a safe landing.
“I don’t like to give a lot of details about the payment,” he replied. “I would not like to [answer] this kind of question. My contacts in England are well known. I would like to skip this part.”
Dini repeated several times the claim his Channel crossings were “safe”. He then confirmed one of the reasons for this assurance was because French vessels accompanied dinghies into British waters to be collected by Border Force or the RNLI.
He was also dismissive of any suggestion social networks might be a hindrance to his criminal enterprise and said he did not fear having his accounts shut down.
He said: “From my accounts I make posts saying ‘this day we will go by boat to England, write to me for the details’. The videos become viral in a moment and people start [contacting me].
“I run three different profiles, one has 3,000 followers, another 10,000 and my third has 11,000.
“I have customers from all categories, families, 16-year-olds and men who want to go to England to change their lives.”
Dini, who is in his mid-20s, claims he earns in excess of £50,000 a year from his smuggling business. But it means if his claim is to be believed that he is managing to get 6,000 migrants to the UK each year, it is only working out that he is getting about an £8 cut per migrant. The majority of the money is believed to go to the Kurdish gangs running the crossings from the coast of France.
The average wage in Albania is just £4,200 a year and Dini said: “I can make good money with it, but I know it’s risky and I don’t see myself doing this job all my life.”
Whilst Dini acknowledged that prosecution from the authorities was a risk, the fear that really bugs him is retribution from the families of those he trafficks if the worst happens.
He added: “If something goes wrong on the boat it’s a big problem for me because if one person dies his family will try to find me. Those families can kill me and say ‘you did this to my child’.
“This never happened before, at least for me, but one day it can happen. There is a risk every time they get in the boat because there are always more people than you should put there.
“This kind of business is very complicated. It’s well organised I am just one part of it. There are many people who make decisions and organise other details.”
Additional reporting by Eraldo Harlicaj
William Turner is a seasoned U.K. correspondent with a deep understanding of domestic affairs. With a passion for British politics and culture, he provides insightful analysis and comprehensive coverage of events within the United Kingdom.