Over 6,400 migrants were found in the back of lorries or cars in Britain last year, more than double the number of 2014.
A report by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration said the problem of migrants stowing away on trucks crossing into Britain was so bad that authorities had to divert attention away from issues such as sham marriages and illegal workers.
So-called “lorry drops” involve migrants in France and other European countries hiding in vehicles destined for Britain and then jumping out when they have reached their destination.
David Bolt found in his report that the number of such drops rose from 2,411 between April and September 2014 to 6,429 in the same period in 2015.
The Times reports that in Kent alone, the number of stowaway migrants rose nearly 10-fold from 340 to 3,264, while in the rest of the country the number hit 3,165. Over 90 per cent went on to claim asylum.
Mr Bolt says in his report that the sharp rise has put heavy pressure immigration officers.
“While frontline staff had coped with extra demands, in some areas the response to lorry drops had been at the expense of other enforcement priorities, such as illegal working and sham marriages, raising questions about immigration enforcement’s capability and resilience,” he says.
The total cost to Home Office and police forces to deal with this problem was £17.7 million between November 2014 and November 2015, the report adds.
Keith Vaz, who chairs the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “It is most concerning that the response to lorry drops had been at the expense of other enforcement priorities such as sham marriages. This will have left vulnerabilities which will be exploited.”
The figures come as Britain struggles to get to grips with immigration. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last month showed that Britain’s population shot up by half a million last year thanks to record immigration levels.