The gang, based in Lille and run by Iraqi Kurds, was detected thanks to intelligence sharing between authorities in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK, police said on Sept. 22.
Three Iraqi men and three French suspects were arrested on Sept. 19 and were subsequently charged, according to French news agency AFP.
Police found 13 inflatable boats, 14 outboard engines, 700 life jackets, 100 pumps, and 700 litres of fuel, according to Xavier Delrieu, head of French anti-illegal immigration agency Ocriest.
The ring is suspected of being behind 80 illegal crossings of the English Channel over the summer, of which 50 were successful. The human smugglers could earn around 80,000 euros ($78,000) for each successful trip.
The number of illegal crossings has soared in recent years, with 28,526 people detected in 2021, compared to 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019, and 299 in 2018, according to figures from the Home Office.
Since the beginning of 2022, more than 30,000 illegal immigrants have crossed the Channel to reach the UK.
According to the UK Ministry of Defence, 21 boats were intercepted on Sept. 22 carrying 1,150 people, bringing the total to have made the crossing so far this year to 31,665.
The number of arrivals this week has led officials to erect special tents at Dover, Kent, to keep the illegal immigrants covered as they appear to be overflowing from existing facilities while being processed.
In April, then-Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a deal with Rwanda that involved sending illegal immigrants who had crossed the channel to the African country.
The agreement was designed to be a deterrent to those making the journey by sea, but 26,397 people have arrived by boat since it was signed.
The first deportation flight to Rwanda was grounded amid legal challenges in June, and the matter isn’t expected to be decided by the UK courts until October.
The way UK authorities have been handling the small boats crossing the Channel has been widely criticised.
Two recent reports criticised the Home Office over its “ineffective” response to the challenge of illegal immigration in the channel. One said the Border Force’s approach to preventing the journeys was “ineffective and possibly counter-productive,” while the other said the initial processing of those who arrived has been “ineffective and inefficient.”
Lily Zhou and PA Media contributed to this report.