‘Three-pronged’ attack to stop the people smugglers

Investigators are targeting the criminals’ convoluted finances, their operations – by seizing boats and engines – while trying to warn those tempted to pay to cross the Channel that they will be deported.

The Home Office has seen evidence of migrants abandoning attempts to reach the UK as it is “too difficult”.

Officials have described their tactics as trying to make the smugglers’ lives “more difficult” by blocking their ability to offer migrants a crossing.

This, they hope, will deter more people from trying to make it over the Channel, because they will lose confidence in the criminals’ operations, and will seek refuge elsewhere.

A key element of the law enforcement crackdown will be a renewed focus on the smugglers and fresh attempts to seize their vast profits.

And they want to lock up more of the boats and engines used by traffickers to smuggle migrants into Britain to further hit cash flows.

Experts believe this could be done at different points along the smuggling routes, including the transit hub of Turkey.

Ministers are also considering ramping up social media campaigns in migrants’ home countries to deter them following the success of a similar move in Albania.

A source close to Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “At every stage – whether frustrating and harassing the criminal gangs responsible for this vile trade to persuading people who would risk their lives and savings to make this incredibly dangerous crossing, and to removing the sub-standard equipment to make crossings – we have already been having an effect.

“It is why crossings are down by a third. We will not stop there but will increase our efforts with all sorts of countries also facing this global problem and on all fronts to make this route unprofitable and impractical.”

Migrants and smugglers use an ancient payment system known as “hawala”. This sees a third party pay a handler in the migrants’ home country. This money is held until the migrant arrives at their destination.

The smuggler can collect his money from another handler in the country where he is operating. No physical money is ever exchanged.

Detectives are finding it “difficult to investigate and track transactions” because there is no “actual movement of funds”. Hayley Pisano, a National Crime Agency senior manager, said: “Our officers work closely with UK and international partners to develop intelligence, identify trends and disrupt crime groups who use the hawala system to launder profits.

“This methodology facilitates transactions linked to organised immigration crime and features in a number of active NCA investigations.”

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We can reveal the adverts in Albania were seen by almost 950,000 people between the end of May and the middle of October.

It warned of the dangers of crossing the Channel and said migrants would not be allowed to stay in the UK.

The Daily Express understands Albanian Interior Minister Taulant Balla told Home Secretary James Cleverly the communications strategy has successfully dissuaded Albanians from trying to cross. Rwanda is part of the “third prong” of the Government’s strategy to tackle illegal migration.

It is understood smugglers are forcing migrants into even flimsier, larger dinghies. Sources suggested this is because law enforcement agencies are seizing more boats.

This has led to criminals placing “bulk” orders of inflatable boats that migrants can pump up in 10 minutes.

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