Home Office fact sheet on small boats

Border Force resources in the Channel

  • Border Force has a total fleet of five cutters and six Coastal Patrol Vessels (CPVs). Two CPVs and two cutters, HMC Vigilant and HMC Searcher, are currently deployed in the Channel working as part of an enhanced patrol rotation.
  • The Home Secretary announced on 31 December that two Border Force cutters, Protector and Seeker, will be re-deployed from overseas to the Channel. An operational plan is in place for their return once both have undergone necessary and routine maintenance.
  • A Royal Navy ship, HMS Mersey, has been deployed to the English Channel as of 3 January. The vessel will support Border Force and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in their efforts to patrol the stretch of water, keep the UK border secure and prevent loss of life.
  • This is an interim measure while the two Border Force cutters redeployed from abroad make their way back to UK waters. The cost of the ship’s deployment will be met by the Home Office.
  • Border Force has one cutter currently committed to supporting FRONTEX operations in the Aegean.
  • Border Force’s deployment of maritime capabilities is under constant review.

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.
  • Following discussions between the Home Secretary and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, a joint action plan will include:

• Stepping up joint patrols and increased surveillance
• Increased activity led out of the new UK-France Coordination and Information Centre in Calais
• Greater sharing of resources
• Disruption of organised trafficking groups
• Raising awareness of the dangers of Channel crossings

  • The Home Secretary has invited Mr Castaner to London for further talks.
  • 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 in November 2018 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
  • Officers from Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency (NCA) are also based in the new Co-ordination and Information Centre.
  • More information on the new UK-France Coordination and Information Centre, which was part of the commitments agreed by the Prime Minister in the Sandhurst Treaty in January, can be found here:

Working within Government and with other agencies

  • A Home Office Gold Command structure to oversee the cross channel migrant situation is now in place and reports daily to the Home Secretary. Cross-Whitehall meetings are taking place on a regular basis.
  • 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 2018, Immigration Enforcement have disrupted 46 organised crime groups involved in people smuggling.
  • On 2 January, NCA officers arrested a 33-year-old Iranian national and a 24-year-old British man in Manchester, on suspicion of arranging the illegal movement of migrants across the English Channel into the UK. The 24-year-old has since been released under investigation. The 33- year-old Jafar Mohebbi, of Broughton, Salford, has been charged with possession with intent to supply Class B drugs (cannabis), two counts of driving while disqualified and two counts of driving without insurance.The investigation into facilitation of illegal entry to the UK continues.
  • On 21 November 2018 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 2018, 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 2018, 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.

Facts and statistics

Total events in 2018:

  • In 2018, there were a total of 75 events, involving 543 people.
  • Of these 543 people, 438 (80%) attempted to cross between October and December.
  • Of the 543, 227 (42%) were intercepted by the French before they made it to the UK