Home Office statement and fact sheet on small boats

There has been a recent upsurge in attempts to reach the UK by small boat.

The Home Office’s response to this can be found below.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“We have stepped up deployments of our coastal patrol vessels along the South-East coast.

“We know there is organised criminal gang activity behind these attempts to cross the Channel, and the Government is working with domestic and international agencies, including the French authorities, to coordinate our response.”

The Home Office is taking a range of actions to tackle this issue, as detailed below:

Border Force resources in the Channel

  • Border Force has a total fleet of 5 cutters and 6 CPVs. Currently, Border Force has three Coastal Patrol Vehicles (CPVs) and one cutter patrolling the channel between Dover and the French Coast.
  • Border Force has two cutters currently committed to supporting FRONTEX operations in the Aegean and one that is en-route to the UK following a FRONTEX support deployment.
  • Border Force’s deployment of maritime capabilities is under constant review.
  • Border Force operations to counter clandestine crossings of the Channel are coordinated with our French counterparts with whom we have a close working relationship.

Working with international partners

  • Border Force operations to counter clandestine crossings of the Channel are coordinated with our French counterparts with whom we have a close working relationship.
  • The Border Force Maritime Intelligence Bureau and Maritime Coordination Centre maintains a close dialogue with the French Customs operating both at sea and in the air, through the regional centre in Rouen and French law enforcement in Cherbourg.
  • Additionally the Border Force Maritime Intelligence Bureau are in daily contact with the Belgian and Dutch maritime intelligence centres to ensure information flows are maintained and communication systems manned 24/7.

UK-France Coordination and Information Centre

  • A new UK-France Coordination and Information Centre opened in Calais on Friday 23 November as part of the ongoing co-operation between the UK and France to tackle criminality at the border. The centre will see Border Force working closely alongside Police Aux Frontieres as part of a 24/7 operation to:
  • assist with preventing illegal attempts to cross the shared border
  • exchange real-time intelligence between UK and French agencies to combat cross-border criminality
  • work on the prevention of threats to public order on cross-border infrastructure
  • provide analysis of cross-Channel traffic flows

Working within Government and with other agencies

  • Working with the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Border Force Maritime have worked with commercial operators and Port Security Officers to ensure that sightings of potentially suspicious small-vessels are reported immediately.
  • Additionally, Border Force have worked with HM Coastguard, to increase safety broadcasts to all vessels in the Channel, encouraging them to look out for and report small vessels.
  • Border Force Maritime continues to use Project Kraken to encourage the public and industry to report suspicious activity and reduce the threat from organised crime and terrorism.
  • Regional General Maritime teams have been bolstered to deliver a 24/7 capability to receive and process migrants.

Tackling smuggling at source

  • The Home Office works closely with partners in the UK and overseas to strike people smuggling at source – identifying and dismantling the organised crime groups that facilitate illegal immigration.
  • Immigration Enforcement and Border Force are part of Project Invigor, the UK’s NCA-led Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce that targets the criminal networks behind people smuggling. It includes partners working in the UK and internationally.
  • Additionally, the UK works abroad to reduce factors that may push or force people to attempt such journeys - through creating jobs, tackling modern slavery, providing education and delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance in response to conflicts and natural disasters.

Action against criminals involved in people smuggling across the Channel

  • Since April, Immigration Enforcement have disrupted 43 organised crime groups involved in people smuggling.
  • On Wednesday (21 November) two men were jailed for eight years each for smuggling people into the UK in small boats. The conviction followed months of investigation led by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) assisted by law enforcement partners including Border Force and Immigration Enforcement.
  • In September, seven members of an organised crime group who tried to use small boats and a jet ski to smuggle people into the UK were jailed for a combined total of 48 years and three months. The lengthy NCA investigation was supported by Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) and Border Force.
  • In February, two people smugglers were jailed for more than nine years. The men had been intercepted by a Border Force coastal patrol vessel and escorted to Sparkes Marina on Hayling Island as they attempted to bring six immigration offenders into the UK hidden on board a yacht. Their convictions followed a CFI investigation.