New UK and French taskforce stops 500 migrants crossing Channel

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A new UK and French taskforce has stopped 500 migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Almost 100 suspected organised people smugglers have been arrested in France in two months, law enforcement officers today.

The Joint Intelligence Cell has also played a part in preventing hundreds of migrants who pay up to 5,000 Euros reaching Britain in inflatable boats and kayaks.

The National Crime Agency and Immigration Enforcement are working on Project Invigor with the French Police Aux Frontières unit.

Shared intelligence led to several boats being prevented from setting off from France, while a number of new alleged conspirators were identified.

Of 98 arrested, at least 10 have already been convicted in France with others awaiting trial or in the French judicial system.

Around 7,000 migrants are believed to have crossed the world’s busiest shipping lane to reach Dover in small boats this year. Some have died due to harsh conditions.

Migrants coming from “safe countries” will be refused asylum, the government said yesterday.

Smugglers use social media to advertise their “wicked trade”, said NCA Deputy Director Matthew Long.

He said they were working with platform owners to shut down accounts to make that a “non-viable option”.

Mr Long said: “Organised immigration crime is a chronic threat, and the scale and complexity evolves all the time.

“We stood up in response to an increasing number of attempted small boat crossings over the summer.

“It is not just about the exchange of intelligence, but also about joint investigations, and we have had incredible support from our French colleagues.

“Together we are determined to disrupt and dismantle these criminal groups wherever they are operating, in the UK, in France or elsewhere in Europe.

“These gangs are cynical and exploitative, putting the lives of migrants secondary to profit. We see that in the dangerous attempts to cross the Channel in small boats, or in the tragic events in Essex last year where migrants were found dead in a lorry.

“Invigor, NCA and wider UK law enforcement have stepped up their efforts against them, both domestically and internationally.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Working with international partners our immigration and law enforcement teams are stepping up our activity against the threat posed by organised immigration crime – preventing people from making dangerous Channel crossings and bringing the vile criminals responsible to justice.

“Only yesterday, 12 people were arrested in France, the Netherlands and the UK as part of a joint operation targeting a gang engaged in smuggling people across the Channel in small boats.

“I remain committed to putting a stop to illegally facilitated Channel crossings and my message to those exploiting the vulnerable for profit is simple – we are coming for you.”