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
Four men have been arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the French police as part of an ongoing investigation into an attempt to smuggle migrants into the UK which resulted in the death of an Iranian woman on 9 August. The French authorities arrested three men on 7 October. Two of the men are due to stand trial in France in December. The NCA arrested a 31-year-old man on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration on 20 September. He has been released under investigation.
Between 11 and 21 September, Immigration Enforcement and NCA officers made 11 other arrests as part of a series of ongoing investigations into suspected people smuggling across the Channel. All have been released under investigation.
On 8 July 2019, Sarbast Mohammed Hama, 31, pleaded guilty at Lewes Crown Court to assisting unlawful immigration into the UK. He was jailed for three years and four months. The case was led by officers from Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations.
On 6 June 2019, a 35-year-old man appeared before magistrates charged with facilitating illegal entry to the UK in relation to an incident involving a RHIB in the Channel. He was remanded in custody and is due to stand trial at Canterbury Crown Court in October 2019.
On 3 June 2019, an Iranian national, who is an Imam at the Mosque in Rouen, was sentenced to 2 years in prison for providing boats to organised crime gangs. His associate was sentenced to 9 months in prison and a 3 year ban from the Nord and Pas de Calais.
In May 2019, the French authorities successfully prosecuted a French National for selling a total of 39 boats to migrants. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment with a further 18 months suspended for abetting illegal migration between October 2018 and March 2019. An accomplice of this individual was also sentenced to a year imprisonment with a further year suspended for involvement with the transfer of both migrants and boats to beaches in northern France.
On 7 January 2019, a man was arrested in Dungeness on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration into the UK. He was later charged and pleaded not guilty in court. He was remanded in custody and his trial is scheduled for a date in January 2020 at Canterbury Crown Court.
On 31 January 2019, two British men were jailed for a total of nine years for attempting to smuggle four people, including a six year old child, into the UK at Ramsgate Marina.
On 21 November 2018, two men were jailed for eight years each for smuggling people into the UK in small boats.
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.
In February 2018, two people smugglers were jailed for a combined total of nine years.
As well as action in the UK, the NCA, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force are working closely with French police. Since Christmas 2018 there have been 14 successful French prosecutions which have seen 28 individuals convicted with sentences ranging from 3 months to 5 years.
Joint Action Plan with France
In January, the former Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, met with French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in London to agree a Joint Action Plan which included:
• Over £6 million (€7m) investment in new security equipment
• Increased CCTV coverage of beaches and ports, air surveillance and shared intelligence; and
• A mutual commitment to conduct returns as quickly as possible under international and domestic laws
On 28 September, an enhanced action plan, agreed by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, came into force.
The plan redoubles efforts to address the issue and includes:
• doubling patrols and deploying new detection equipment to increase interceptions on French beaches
• action to intensify efforts to tackle criminal gangs through strengthened intelligence sharing
• engaging directly with migrants to discourage them from making the journey
Assets on the ground will be doubled to provide 24/7 cover of the beaches in northern France, ensuring more detections before boats are able to leave the shore, cutting the number of attempted crossings.
More information can be found here.
UK-France Coordination and Information Centre
The 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 sees 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 Co-ordination and Information Centre.
More information on the UK-France Coordination and Information Centre, which was part of the commitments agreed by the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, in the Sandhurst Treaty in January 2018 can be found here.
The former Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, and the French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, visited the Centre on Friday 25 January, more information can be found here.
The UK continues to work closely with France and other countries to return more migrants who have entered the UK by small boat in order to provide a strong deterrent against the dangerous crossings.
Since January, over 100 people who entered the UK illegally on small boats have been returned to Europe.
Border Force resources in the Channel
Border Force has a total fleet of five cutters and six Coastal Patrol Vessels (CPVs). Two CPVs and three cutters, HMC Protector, HMC Searcher and HMC Seeker, are currently in the Channel.
Border Force’s deployment of maritime capabilities is under constant review.
Working with international partners
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.
The NCA has a permanent presence in France to aid intelligence sharing between the two countries and target criminal networks involved in people smuggling.
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.
The Joint Border Intelligence Unit (JBIU) in Kent brings together officers from the police, NCA, Border Force, HMRC and IE to share, develop and analyse intelligence between agencies.