Police and Border Force team up at Portsmouth International Port to catch organised crime gangs behind people smuggling
POLICE and Border Force have teamed up to trial an innovative approach to catch people smugglers.
Hampshire officers seconded to the national Modern Slavery Organised Immigration Crime Unit, teamed up with Border Force at Portsmouth International Port to test a new method to tackle organised immigration crime - those involved in the different stages behind human trafficking and illegal entry into the country.
‘This is the first time that police in Portsmouth and Border Force have worked together to target both inbound and outbound freight in the same operation,’ a police statement said.
‘It’s hoped that this approach can evolve and be considered at other ports across the UK.
‘The most common clandestine ways for migrants to enter the UK are in lorries or other commercial vehicles transported by rail or ferry, in commercial shipping containers, or in small boats.
‘Organised gangs frequently smuggle people in hard-sided lorries, more opportunist smuggling tends to be in soft-sided lorries. Most methods of transport subject migrants to significant personal risk.’
The multi-agency operation on Thursday June 17 targeted hauliers with outstanding penalties for clandestine entry to the UK. One vehicle was discovered where an outstanding penalty of £2,400 was enforceable.
Officers searched vehicles for cash and illegal migrants, educated drivers about security and enforced any outstanding penalties over clandestine entry or road traffic offences.
‘Although no one was found to be transported illegally in the 132 checked HGVs, people smuggling costs lives,’ the statement said. ‘This collaborative work looks to target criminals who are exploiting vulnerable people into being transported into the UK illegally through dangerous methods.
Hampshire Constabulary’s lead for Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime, detective chief inspector Ross Toms said: ‘Criminals are making cash by illegally smuggling desperate and vulnerable people into the UK through dangerous methods.
‘By working with agencies like Border Force and Portsmouth International Port, we are doing all we can to tackle the issue together.
‘It is important to remember that those who are smuggled are then often forced into modern slavery and other crime, having been promised a better life in the UK and forced to pay large amounts of money to get here, to organised crime gangs.
‘There are also serious penalties for those caught helping to smuggle people into the UK in the back of lorries. They could be arrested and investigated and their employer could face substantial fines for not having appropriate security.
‘We would advise anyone who thinks that there may be people trapped in a lorry or vehicle to report it to police immediately to 999 as a life could be put at risk.’
Inspector Andy McClenaghan from the national Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime Unit (MSOICU) said: ‘This joint operation displays how we are continuing to target and disrupt people smugglers and pursue those haulier companies who have previously been found to have bought vulnerable people into the UK.
‘Organised immigration groups have little regard for the safety of migrants, who often conceal themselves in lorries. Our work to tackle this criminality also protects those who could otherwise be exploited.’
Phil Maunder, Border Force senior officer said: ‘This activity is a message that we never stop looking for those involved in immigration crime. Working with our partners at Portsmouth we will continue to do all we can to tackle serious crime at the border.’