Up to 100 British nationals have been jailed in France for attempting to smuggle people into the UK from the port of Calais, local prosecutors say.
Julie Colaert, the deputy prosecutor for the Calais region's main court, said she has seen "more and more English smugglers" in the last two years. She said the figure is only an estimate, as it is illegal to record crimes by nationality in France.
"Trafficking gangs are employing them to take people across in their own cars," she told the BBC. "The migrants pay a lot of money because it's sold as guaranteed passage to the UK."
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Most recently, a man from Lancashire was sentenced to 12 months in prison for concealing two Iraqi men in the boot of his car. Basir Haji was caught at the Calais ferry terminal and admitted agreeing to smuggle them into Britain for £500. "I'm in debt. That's why I did it. I've been playing a lot of money in the casino," he said.
Mafia-run trafficking gangs are changing the way they operate, increasingly targeting students with financial difficulties, and bar owners and shopkeepers whose businesses are struggling, says the BBC.
Drivers taking people across the Channel can earn up to £2,800 per trip, but are often caught despite being told that the risks are minimal. Smugglers can face anywhere from six months to two years in prison.
News of the arrests comes as aid agencies warn of "catastrophic conditions" at the camps in Calais, where migrants lack basic sanitation, food and water. The crisis is expected to worsen in the summer months.
"It is much worse than it was before," said Martine Devries, from Médecins du Monde, told the Daily Telegraph. "There are more people and they are becoming more desperate and are taking more risks.
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