Criminal networks are attempting to smuggle migrants into the UK through quieter ports, such as Newhaven, following tighter security at Britain’s major ports, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.
The information comes from a task force run by the NCA, known as Project Invigor, to combat the criminal gangs behind illegal immigration.
The NCA says people smugglers have used rigid-hulled inflatable boats to get people across to “shallow beaches”, while also targeting less busy ports following clampdowns on security at Dover and Folkestone.
Tom Dowdall, deputy director of the NCA’s border policing command, said: “We’ve seen on the east coast evidence from Tilbury and Purfleet, up as far as Hull and Immingham. And on the south coast from Newhaven to Portsmouth.”
The criminal networks are seen as adaptable, quickly changing their methods in response to law enforcement action or increased security.
Project Invigor has also uncovered migrants paying smuggling gangs as much as £13,500 to arrange their journey into the UK.
Project Invigor has up to 60 open lines of inquiry into organised crime gangs at any one time.
Groups involved tend to be formed along national or community lines, including those from the Middle East, China and various Eastern European countries, the agency said, while British-based organisations often include naturalised UK citizens.
Smugglers are said to find their “customers” through word of mouth recommendations, at transit hubs and through advertising on social media.
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