People smugglers may be using Portsmouth

Portsmouth International Port
Portsmouth International Port

Thieves smash into vehicles parked at leisure centres

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GANGS smuggling migrants into Britain could be using Portsmouth’s ferry port as one of their trafficking routes, the National Crime Agency has claimed.

The NCA – the UK’s equivalent to the FBI – has been running the largest dedicated operation against organised immigration crime in Europe.

Investigators suspect that, as well as the main Channel crossing between Calais and Kent, criminal networks are now starting to target quieter ports on the east and south coasts in addition to the hotspot at Kent.

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.’

Intelligence suggests that some migrants have paid up to £12,000 for transport from Dunkirk to the UK in Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats, the NCA said.

The criminal networks are seen as adaptable, quickly changing their methods in response to law enforcement action or increased security.

The NCA’s 90-officer taskforce – codenamed Project Invigor – has up to 60 open lines of inquiry into organised crime gangs at any time.