Moment people smuggler offers to get reporter across the Channel

Moment people smuggler offers to get reporter across the Channel

October 16, 2020

Moment Serbian people smuggler offers to get undercover reporter posing as a refugee across the Channel for £2,750 after meeting in a cafe in Calais

  • Undercover reporter meets people smuggler in France offering £2,750 crossing
  • Smuggler says: ‘It’s safe, you have life jackets, we have people, we have driver’
  • Documentary also shows London brokers who hold money for people smugglers
  • Exposure – Hunting The People Smugglers is now available to watch on ITV Hub

This is the dramatic moment a Serbian people smuggler offered to take an undercover reporter posing as a refugee across the English Channel for £2,750.

The reporter told the smuggler, who calls himself Marko Hooman, during a meeting in a cafe in Calais that he had family in Birmingham who ‘have money’. 

Hooman said he should pay a broker by putting ‘your money in a shop in London’, adding: ‘It’s all safe, you have life jackets, we have people, we have driver, all safe.’

Having met him in Calais, the ITV team then discovered he had claimed asylum in Britain and confronted a man thought to be him outside a hotel in the Midlands.

However the man denied his name was Marko or Hooman and walked off, in one of many dramatic scenes in the Exposure documentary broadcast last night.

The ITV undercover reporter (right) told the smuggler (left), who calls himself Marko Hooman, during a meeting in a cafe in Calais that he had family in Birmingham who ‘have money’

Hooman (pictured) said the reporter should pay a broker by putting ‘your money in a shop in London’, adding: ‘It’s all safe, you have life jackets, we have people, we have driver, all safe’

Having met Hooman in Calais, the ITV team then discovered he had claimed asylum in Britain and confronted a man thought to be him (left) outside a hotel in the Midlands

Also in the programme, a video showed a migrant girl being bundled into a boat by her father to cross the Channel at Calais and told him: ‘I don’t want to go, Daddy.’

The shocking scene was captured secretly at night by the crew investigating migrant crossings at Bleriot beach in the programme ‘Hunting The People Smugglers’.

The girl, who is believed to be aged five, was heard screaming in fear and crying as she was ordered to ‘get in the boat’ amid panicked scenes in complete darkness. 

And the documentary also revealed the faces of brokers based in London who hold money for people smugglers attempting to help migrants cross the Channel. 

In a six-month probe, investigators infiltrated gangs making huge profits out of the estimated 7,173 migrants who have already come to Britain on small boats this year. 

People prepare to cross the channel from a beach in the heart of Calais at 3am in the morning

A migrant girl being bundled into a boat by her father tells him: ‘I don’t want to go, Daddy’

This figure is compared with 1,850 migrants throughout all of 2019 – and at least 1,954 completed the crossing in small boats in September alone.

The team uncovered both the gangs’ financial arrangements and the mechanics of the crossings launched in the middle of the night to avoid the French police.

They also discovered migrants being put to sea on flimsy dinghies, with motors being started by smugglers before setting off across the Channel.

And they investigated an agent for the smugglers in Calais who later turned up at a hotel in the Midlands, having claimed asylum in the UK.

In addition, the investigators found that in order to cross the Channel, migrants would usually first need to pay a separate broker based in London.

The ITV crew were investigating migrant crossings at Bleriot beach in Calais for a new show

Undercover reporters for the Exposure programme filmed the crossing starting at Calais

Investigators infiltrated gangs making huge profits out of the migrants crossing the Channel

Undercover reporters met with a broker called Akbar Amery in an office on a high street in West London, where he explained that he was responsible for taking ‘the guarantee’ on behalf of the smuggler.

He said: ‘You pay me cash or you want to put it in an account, and then I will confirm it with him, the person’s name, and then soon the person [comes] over, [and] after one or two days when you know he’s in, that’s it – finish – I release the money.’

However he explained the limitations of that guarantee and admitted that by taking the money for the illegal crossing, he was breaking the law.

‘It’s not like a receipt, a proper receipt, [I can’t] give you a receipt because it’s an illegal job.’

Reporters met with a broker called Akbar Amery in an office on a high street in West London, where he explained that he was responsible for taking ‘the guarantee’ on the smuggler’s behalf

Amery explained the limitations of that guarantee and admitted that by taking the money for the illegal crossing, he was breaking the law

According to Amery, the guarantee works by money being paid to him either through an account or by cash, and he said he holds onto the money until the crossing is completed. 

Then the money, he said, is released to the smugglers – minus his commission.

Amery said if their man didn’t arrive on UK soil, they get their money back, and the same if they cancel the job, known as a ‘game’ by the smugglers.

He also told the reporters safety was important and to ‘tell them (the smugglers) to get a nice boat…an expensive boat.’ He claimed that only ‘one old Iranian lady’ had died during a crossing.

The Home Office has confirmed this week that five people are known to have died crossing the Channel in small boats since 2018. 

The undercover team later found another broker in London who admitted working with several smugglers in Calais. From an office in Central London, Mohammed Meehan works in a currency exchange

The undercover team later found another broker in London who admitted working with several smugglers in Calais. 

From an office in Central London, Mohammed Meehan works in a currency exchange.

He told an undercover reporter that he works with some of the top smugglers in France, Britain and Serbia. 

He provided further detail on the financial workings of the gangs, explaining that each gang sends a runner to pick up their money.

He said: ‘They come here every week or so and do their calculations. If you’re not careful and you mix up the people and the smugglers are Kurdish, it gets really bad. 

ITV reporter Adnan Sarwar on a beach near Calais where he witnessed a crossing first hand

‘You have to pay yourself…. They don’t mess around. They come and attack you at night.’ 

The Home Office told the programme it is determined to fix what it says is a broken asylum system which enables organised criminals to elbow the most vulnerable to the side.

Government officials also say they are introducing a new system which will be fairer and firmer, welcoming people through safe and legal routes.

ITV contacted Amery and Mihan for comment but has not received a response from either man.

Exposure – Hunting The People Smugglers is now available to watch on ITV Hub

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