The National Crime Agency has issued a warning to businesses and owners of small boats, asking them to ensure their property is adequately secured following a spate of thefts by organised crime groups facilitating the crossing of illegal migrants across the English Channel.
The record levels of illegal immigration now being reported via the Channel has seen a rise in demand for small vessels, less likely to be detected by authorities which could be used in smuggling operations. As the weather improves and Britain heads into summer, the NCA expects demand to increase even further.
It has called for businesses and individual owners to report any suspicious activity such as large orders paid for in cash; enquiries about mass orders of life jackets or similar equipment and/or a lack of concern about the condition of vessels being purchased or a suspicion the purchase isn’t intended for the buyer.
NCA Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, Miles Bonfield, said: “Today we are directly appealing to those within the marine and maritime industries to help us stop those involved in organised people smuggling.
“Crossing the channel in vessels like these is extremely dangerous and life threatening – but the organised crime groups involved don’t care about safety or welfare, they just see migrants as a commodity to be exploited.
“We’re already working closely with a range of partners in the UK and on the continent to target the supply of these vessels, but we are now asking that the UK industry helps us and report any suspicions they may have.”
Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine, the trade association for the UK leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry, commented: “We are pleased to be working with the NCA to help raise awareness of this concerning issue and to reduce criminal activity.
“The NCA plays a key role in supporting the security and safety of the marine industry, and today’s warning about organised crime linked to small boats in particular is ultimately a safety issue and one that British Marine and our members take very seriously.
“The UK leisure marine industry must always play its part and I am confident that British Marine members will take the lead in this area and share the warning and ‘red flags’ to be mindful of within their businesses.”
209 illegal immigrants arrived in Britain on Wednesday making it a record haul in a single day this year.
If that uptick in pace continues all year, it would see an unprecedented 23,088 migrants land in the country in 2021 – the equivalent of 23 military battalions, five military brigades, or two army divisions.