UK: Suspected People Smuggling Gang Busted in Illegal Boat Migrants Probe

CALAIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 08: Migrants move their belongings as French police clear a migrant camp near Calais Port on January 08, 2019 in Calais, France. In recent weeks there has been an increase in migrants, many claiming to be from Iran, making the sea crossing from France to the …
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The UK has arrested 11 people suspected of being involved in a people-smuggling gang, which is believed to have facilitated illegal boat migrants crossing the English Channel from France, the Home Office has revealed.

Police in Britain raided 12 properties in London and Sheffield, where they seized some £150,000 cash and two vehicles and arrested 11 people. The operation was carried out by Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations force, who were assisted by the Border Force, the Metropolitan Police, the National Crime Agency (NCA), as well as French law enforcement.

Those arrested are believed to have been involved in an organised criminal gang that financially supported the illegal boat crossings, and actively assisted migrants entering the UK.

Announcing the raid on Saturday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said per The Telegraph: “I will not tolerate ruthless criminals looking to break the law by smuggling people into the UK illegally. I will put whatever resource is necessary to dismantle these gangs and stop these dangerous crossings, including going after the groups financing these criminal operations.”

“This is a clear message to those behind these reckless crossings. We will find you and we will stop at nothing to put you behind bars and strip you of your ill-gotten gains,” Patel added.
The arrests come as the number of illegal migrants recorded to have reached British shores reached 3,285 people, a new record and quickly approaching double the amount for the entirety of last year, which was 1,890.

Two weeks ago, the Home Secretary met with the recently installed French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. Patel and her French counterpart announced the creation of a Franco-British Operational Research Unit that will be tasked with going after the scourge of people-smuggling gangs.

The task force will also attempt to gather intelligence for the purpose of preventing migrants from attempting to cross the Channel.

Yet, the two sides have so far failed to reach an agreement that would see migrant boats returned to France while in the process of making the illegal journey. Both the French and British governments have used the excuse of a set of non-binding international maritime laws, which allegedly prevent ships from intervening except at the request of the illegal migrants.

This excuse, however, did not stop Australia from preventing boat crossings during former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Operation Sovereign Borders, which saw illegal migration plummet.

Rather than returning migrants to France, — a safe, first world, European Union member state, where they are required by law to remain — the French Navy has been revealed to have actively escorting migrants into British territorial waters, handing them over to the British Border Force.

In June, the National Audit Office admitted that the British government has ‘no idea‘ how many illegal migrants are currently residing in the United Kingdom. The report cited independent research conducted by Pew in 2019, which suggested there could be as many as 1,200,000 illegal immigrants in the country.

Besides failing in preventing more illegal migrant boats to pour into the country, the Home Office has so far been inept at actually deporting migrants, with just 155 deported between the start of 2018 and May of this year.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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